Niels Vermeersch (aka Niels de Saint Gilliens, Niels van Flandrensis) is the founder and the first (and only) head of state of the Grand Duchy of Flandrensis.
As Grand Duke, Niels is the face of Flandrensis and the official representative of its worldwide community. He’s the head of the Government and has several constitutional powers like the appointment of ministers or ambassadors, signing treaties, etc. Niels is highly involved in the international community of micronations and he’s a frequent guest and speaker at meetings and international conferences of micronations.
Why the title of Grand Duke?
Niels holds the title of Grand Duke of Flandrensis but he calls himself “the man behind the project Flandrensis” and never uses the title outside Flandrensis. He started with his micronation in 2008 as a temporary hobby during the holidays without any long term intention. He took the medieval ages as a source of inspiration for his micronation and therefore he chose for it to be a Grand Duchy rather than a republic. In real life Niels is not a monarchist, but people know him today as the “Grand Duke”.
Niels started Flandrensis in September 2008 but joined the micronational community at the end of that year. Between 2009 and 2011 he was mainly active in the MicroWiki community and represented Flandrensis in several micronational organisations (Grand Unified Micronational, Organisation of Active Micronations, League of Secessionist States, Antarctic Micronational Union, etc.). He became notorious in the community because of the diplomatic dispute with the micronation of Westarctica, which of course ended without any blood or violence. Due to this dispute Niels created a reputation for himself as a micronational pacifist and in 2009 he received the Schneider Award, the very first peace award granted by the micronational community. In 2014 the French newspaper “Le Journal du Dimanche” even called him the “Woodrow Wilson of micronationalism”.
Niels is also one of the first who introduced the concept of ecological micronationalism. In 2009 he was one of the co-founders of the Antarctic Micronational Union and was elected as its first Secretary-General. He was later re-elected twice, until he left office in 2013. In 2016 he surprised the micronational community by leaving the AMU, also known as the FLEXIT. After rejecting an ecological charter and several conservative members denying the existence of climate change, he accused the AMU of becoming an exclusively colonial Antarctic group, with almost no interest in the ecological problems of today. Very soon after, he launched the initiative for the “Micronational Declaration on Ecological Stewardship”. Together with 25 micronationalists he worked 6 months on the charter, the final result was presented and signed on June 23, 2017 at MicroCon in Atlanta (USA), a few weeks after President Tump withdraw the USA from the Paris Climate Accords.
Niels also tried to develop micronationalism in Belgium and the Netherlands and helped several people with the foundation of their own micronation. Between 2010 and 2016 they cooperated together within the Flandrensian Commonwealth with Niels as the Secretary-General. However, confronted with inactive citizens most of those micronations collapsed after a few years so Niels decided to disband the Commonwealth in 2016.
Today Niels is a well-known figure in the micronational community, especially for his influence in ecological micronationalism. He spend most of his time dealing with Flandrensian affairs and raising awareness for climate change. The Grand Duchess often calls Flandrensis his second job … Since 2015 he has been a council member of the French speaking organisation ‘La MicroFrancophonie’ and he’s a frequent guest at micronational meeting and conferences.
Transforming Flandrensis from a temporary hobby into a serious ecological project, he has been interviewed and mentioned several times in the international media (regional and national newspapers, television network channels, radio, books, scientific / cultural magazine, etc.) about Flandrensis or micronationalism in general.
He is frequently asked for interviews for academic papers and as a speaker he gave two presentations on conferences: “Hobby-micronationalism in the 21st century” and “The influence of the internet on micronationalism”.
Outside Flandrensis Niels works for a Belgian municipality and in his free time he’s a huge fan of literature and history. He’s also an active member of a local green-liberal political party. In 2012 he got married to the Flandrensian Baroness Delphine de Saint Gilliens and the royal couple are now blessed with 2 children. Since 2013 their residence is at the Flandrensian Embassy in the Kingdom of Belgium (Sint-Juliaan, West-Flanders).