IT is uninhabited, unless you count the goats, but unlike many remote British villages its post office is still standing.

The tiny Caribbean island of Redonda is just a square mile in size, a remnant of the cone of an extinct volcano rising almost 970ft from sea level.

In a bizarre twist, the ruler has named a Southampton pub as Redonda's official consulate in the south.

Landlord Bob Beech is also to receive a knighthood from the island's official cardinal, who just so happens to be a regular at the Wellington Arms in Freemantle.

Cardinal Edward Elder met Redonda's king when he was living in the south of the nearby island of Antigua from 1990 to 2000.

The 72-year-old estate agent, who now lives in Southampton, said: "I can't remember exactly how I met him but it was in the south of Antigua, near the port, because we were both into our sailing."

Today he was due to create the official consulate in the city and knight landlord Bob.

Although the title of king is hotly disputed, with at least nine known claimants, it seems King Robert the Bald, who was crowned in 1998 and lives on Antigua, is the island's most likely ruler.

The colourful king is a 60-year-old Canadian who writes novels and has a penchant for sailing in his 72ft yacht St Peter.

King Robert the Bald, real name Bob Williamson, speaking from his Antigua home, said: "I might ring the pub to have a talk with them. They sound like quite an active gang of people. I have no plans to visit, but if I'm ever in England again I will come and have a look."

Redonda was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. It remained virtually uninhabited except for visiting fishermen, until 1865, when Mathew Dowdy Shiell claimed it and declared it a kingdom for his first-born son, Mathew, who was crowned King Felipe I on his 15th birthday by Bishop Mitchinson of Antigua.

In 1872 the British annexed the island and declared it to be a dependency of Antigua, then a British colony.

The British Colonial Office tacitly admitted Mr Shiell's claim on the Island to gain his co-operation in the exploitation of the valuable guano deposits.

In 1899 a hurricane destroyed the buildings of the guano mining industry and in 1912 the last shipment of phosphate was made and mining ceased.

King Felipe died in London in 1947 and was succeeded by the poet John Gawsworth, who was crowned King Juan I.

A well-known literary figure in London literary circles, he was generous with Redondan titles, ennobling a host of luminaries as Dylan Thomas, Henry Miller and J B Priestley.

Succumbing to alcoholism, he began distributing knighthoods in return for a round of drinks at the Alma, his favourite hostelry in London.

On his deathbed in 1970, Gawsworth appointed Jon Wynne-Tyson his literary executor as his literary publisher Unknown to him, along with the appointment came the succession to the throne. He accepted the role as King Juan II and kept a low profile for 27 years.

In 1997 Mr Wynne-Tyson and his wife visited Antigua and met Bob Williams and over tea expressed his desire to abdicate.

Following Bob's interest, the king wrote to him saying: "You should prepare your square rigged schooner, drive her downwind to Redonda, plant your flag, give a speech that you are now the supreme ruler."

On May 31 1998 Bob did exactly that along with Edward Elder and 60 followers by sailing to the island where he was formally declared by Cardinal Sin of Antigua to be King Robert the Bald.