Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Feudal Anachronism: Sark

Stuck out in the English Channel, 20 miles off the coast of Normandy and boasting a population of only 600 souls, to its admirers the Isle of Sark represents a redoubt against the modern world.

There is no divorce, cars are banned - the preferred mode of transport is tractor - and even the playing of a radio in a public place is outlawed.

Yet Sark continues to attract wealthy outsiders to its tranquil shores, not just because of this enviably laid-back way of life; there is no income tax and personal property taxes are pegged at paltry levels for the very richest.

The "fief" includes the rugged neighbouring island of Brecqhou, bought by the Barclay brothers, owners of The Telegraph, in 1993 for the sum of £2.33m, where they have erected a fairy-tale castle for the benefit of themselves and family.

Sir David Barclay, who, along with his twin brother, Sir Frederick, argues that behind Sark's bucolic fa├žade resides a political system rotten to the core.

Yesterday in his third "open letter to the Bailiwick of Guernsey" (the legal domain in which the Isle of Sark resides) he took out a full-page advertisement describing the island's ruler, known as the Seigneur, as "the unacceptable face of feudalism".

The Independent, 8/10/2006

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