James Harden-Hickey, Prince of Trinidad
Born in San Francisco, California, in 1854 to an Irish and French family, Harden-Hickey grew up in Paris, where he married the Countess de Saint-Pery in 1878. A royalist, journalist, and prolific writer, he founded Le Triboulet, a fervently monarchist periodical, and was made a Baron of the Papal Nobility. After the closure of Le Triboulet, he divorced, converted to Theosophy, and set out to India.
En route, the Astoria stopped at the small, uninhabited South Atlantic island of Trinidad, which Harden-Hickey, believing it terra nullius, claimed. He married American heiress Anna H. Flagler in 1891 in New York City, where they settled. Financed by his wealthy father-in-law, Harden-Hickey began publicizing his plans, and in 1893 scored a front-page story in the New York Tribune.
After proclaiming himself James I, Prince of Trinidad in 1894, he began reifying his new country. A crown was commissioned; a national flag and a princely coat of arms designed; postage stamps issued; an order of chivalry, The Cross of Trinidad, founded; and government bonds sold. James I opened a chancellery in Manhattan, and appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs his friend the Count de la Boissière, who claimed that “several powers have recognized the new Principality.” A Charge d’Affaires was designated in Canada. To transport colonists and supplies to the island, a schooner was purchased and 40 Chinese workers were sent to construct a lighthouse, a coaling station, houses, and wharves.
The project was thwarted in 1895 when the Royal Navy invaded the island to use it as a cable station and expelled its occupants, then acquiesced to Brazil, the current owner of the island. The deposed monarch, despondent and depressed, committed suicide in 1898.
Although he had a son and a daughter by his first wife, no known descendants of James I publicly claim the throne of Trinidad. Author Richard Harding Davis (“Real Soldiers of Fortune,” 1906) states that de la Boissière was appointed “executor of his estate, guardian of his children…perpetual regent…and executor of the principality” and that “to him has been left a royal decree signed and sealed, but blank….to fill in…with a statement….[to] proclaim the accession of a new king.” The resolution remains unknown. Davis concluded that “unless his son, or wife, or daughter should assert his or her rights, which is not likely to happen, so ends the dynasty of James the First of Trinidad.”
Image: Mausoleum of the Hickey family in San Francisco, California, where Prince James is entombed. © Dana G. in Find A Grave.
Coat of Arms of the Principality of Trinidad, devised by James Harden-Hickey. The flag of the principality followed the same design.
Not to be confused with the homonymous Caribbean island, the Island of Trindade — formerly claimed by the Principality of Trinidad as its territory—belongs to the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo, and lies 1,100 km (680 miles) from Brazil. (Image: Simone Marinho)
Chancellery of the Principality of Trinidad in Manhattan in 1906. By then, Prince James was dead and the Chancellery had been closed. It was fronted by the Count de la Boissière, who mailed an envelope in our collection from here. Image colorized by us. © New York Public Library)
Prince James purchased the Château des Orchidées in Andilly, France, in 1890. He lived between Andilly and New York City after marrying Annie Harper a year later, although after 1893 he was mainly devoted to his Trinidad project. Today it houses a psychiatric clinic. (Image: Public Domain)
The Island of Trinidad, off the Coast of Brazil, illustration from the 1906 book Real Soldiers of Fortune by RH Davis.
His Serene Highness Prince James I of Trinidad
None, although a crown was manufactured
Principality of Trinidad (1893–1895)
Objects in our Collection
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