A WOMAN’S dreams of becoming a real-life princess will come true today when she marries the prince of a tiny republic off the Essex coast.

Charley Rae Holgate, 24, a nurse at Southend Hospital who lives in Leigh, will wed the Prince of Sealand, James Bates, 27, at a country house in Feering, Colchester.

Sealand is a former Second World War Royal Navy fort, seven miles off the Harwich Coast, and declared independent under Prince James’s grandfather, Roy Bates, in 1966.

The reason the couple are not getting married there is because Charley doesn’t want her grandparents to travel by boat to get there.


Nevertheless, Charley can’t wait. She said: “It’s still all a bit surreal. Sometimes I stop and think to myself, ‘Is this really happening?’ “It’s so strange to think I’ll be a princess.

“I’ve always loved Disney films, so it will literally be like a dream come true!”

James, who works as a fisherman, said they did talk about hosting the ceremony on Sealand, but desperately wanted Charley’s grandparents to attend.

He said: “They wouldn’t be able to come if we held it there.

“So we decided to get married at a nice country house, where we could stay for the night and have breakfast the next day with all our family.

“The whole event, including the ceremony, will be held outside, so we’re crossing our fingers for good weather.

“My mum is so excited, she shakes every time she talks about it.”

The couple, who live in Leigh, met at a mutual friend’s caveman themed fancy dress party in May, 2009.

James said: “The second time I met her,I told her I would marry her! We dated for six or seven months, and became a couple on New Year’s Eve.”

He popped the question last year on Friday, July 20, on a rowing boat in Dedham, Colchester, where the couple also enjoyed a picnic.

Charley said: “We go out to Sealand together every couple of months. It’s amazing going over there – it’s a real adventure, and there’s no-one for miles.

“After our engagement party, we went out there to hang up a banner, and then caught and cooked our own lobster. It was lovely.”

The couple will honeymoon in Malaysia for 18 nights, and hope to move into their new bungalow, in Leigh, when they return.