A born swashbuckler, Paddy Roy Bates fought in the Spanish Civil War as a teenager, faced a Greek firing squad in World War II and had a German stick bomb explode in his face.

But the sturdy Brit recovered from his injuries, married a beauty queen and prospered in business — all before embarking on the greatest adventure of his life.

He started a country.

In 1967, he founded the Principality of Sealand on an abandoned North Sea military platform six miles off the British coast. He issued passports, stamps and coins, commissioned a national anthem and installed himself as its sovereign ruler.

In short order, the self-styled Prince Roy clashed with British authorities, who hauled him into court only to see the emboldened royal return to his 5,000-square-foot nautical kingdom. Later, he was overthrown in a coup but took back his republic in a helicopter raid led by a stunt pilot for James Bond movies.

Bates, who ruled his mini-nation for 45 years, died Tuesday in Essex, England. He was 91 and had Alzheimer's disease, according to an announcement on the Sealand website.

"My husband should have been born 300 years ago," his wife, Joan Bates, once told the Los Angeles Times. "He's an adventurer, an entrepreneur. The challenge is what it's all about."