Tributes for Hutt River matriarch
Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley of Hutt River Provence. Picture: Kerry Edwards/The West Australian

Tributes have flooded in from around the world for Princess Shirley Casley of Hutt River, who died surrounded by family and friends at the weekend.

The wife of self-proclaimed Prince Leonard Casley and matriarch of the Principality of Hutt River - a 75sqkm micro-nation about 600km north of Perth - died on Sunday morning, aged 84.

Prince Richard Casley, one of Princess Shirley's seven children, said the family were reeling from the loss of their "rock", a woman who lived for her family.

"Shirley willingly followed Len everywhere; she backed him 100 per cent through everything and they achieved together," he said.

"She loved family and family occasions, she was a true matriarch, a rock to us all.

"If anyone ever got too big- headed or lost touch, she would pull them back in line - she was always there for everyone."

The Casleys, a farming family, made history in 1970 when they declared their property a separate country to the rest of Australia in protest against the low wheat production quotas being imposed by the WA government.

Under Australian law, the Commonwealth had two years to respond to the declaration and its failure to do so gave de facto autonomy to the principality on April 21, 1972.

Born Shirley Joy Butler in Fremantle on July 19, 1928, Princess Shirley's ancestry can be traced to Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. She met Leonard Casley in Fremantle in the early 1940s. They married in the port city in 1947 before moving to Como for several years.

They moved to Hutt River in the 1960s, buying the wheat farm about 120km north of Geraldton. This farm would later be declared an independent nation by the Casleys, with the family introducing their own postage stamps, currency and visa requirements.

Prince Richard said his father, who was at his mother's side constantly during her last days, was overwhelmed by messages of support and condolences from around the world.

The couple, who were married for 66 years, raised seven children, 20 grandchildren and more than 30 great-grandchildren.

Prince Richard said his mother preferred to stay out of the spotlight but was the driving force behind the scenes in her various roles, including hosting dignitaries, media and the 40,000 tourists who visited each year.

"We've had so many messages already from people all around the world who knew her," Prince Richard said.

"She was a very special woman to so many people - she enjoyed life."

The official website for the Principality of Hutt River advised that offices were closed and camping and overnight stays suspended for a period of mourning.

A public service to commemorate Princess Shirley's life will be held at the West Chapel at Fremantle Cemetery on Friday at 9.50am.

For those in the Principality of Hutt River and surrounds, a memorial service is being planned for a later date.

The West Australian

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