It is the story of a 15th-century David against a 21st-century Goliath. The Isle of Sark is in the English Channel. With 600 inhabitants and an area of two square miles, democratic forms of government have not been the law of the land here until now. The island belongs to a feudal lord, the Seigneur, John Michael Beaumont, granted to him by the English Crown. Until a short time ago, Beaumont still held anachronistic rights such as the right to a thirteenth part of all land transactions or being the only person allowed to own doves and pigeons on Sark.
In 1993, the 74-year-old multimillionaire twins, Sirs David and Frederick Barclay – owners of the Ritz in London, the Daily Telegraph and a successful line of home shopping catalogues – bought a neighbouring island where they built their own castle. Their disagreement with Sark legislation, led them to court where they claimed the Beaumont regime was not complying with the European Convention of Human Rights. The Barclay brothers have bought most of Sark’s hotels and now own 25% of the land on the island. They employ about 150 of the island’s inhabitants. All of this led to the first democratic elections in Sark in over 450 years.