The island is also where Lambert Simnel, the young son of an Oxford tradesman, landed in June 1487 with an army of mercenaries and a claim to be the rightful heir to Englandâ€™s throne. He marched on London, was promptly defeated by Henry VII, and wound up a kitchen servant.
The â€œKing of Pielâ€ custom was probably invented in the early 19th century as a reference to Simnel’s doomed claim, Mr. Douglas said. â€œSort of a looking back to the good old days, and reinventing some kind of arcane ceremony,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a bit weird.â€
In the fall and winter, the history buffs and picnickers leave the island to the birds, the seals and two full-time residents in one of the private homes. â€œItâ€™s a very tranquil place,â€ Mr. Murphy said. â€œIf you donâ€™t have any customers, you have to be a Robinson Crusoe and enjoy the facilities that youâ€™ve got in your mind.â€
Mr. Callister said some parts of the landlordâ€™s contract would be negotiated with the council, including pay and whether the landlord would have to live on Piel year-round.
â€œItâ€™s an opportunity for somebody thatâ€™s really open-minded, loves that style of business, loves the outside, loves history,â€ Mr. Callister said. â€œAt the end of the day, when we all get a little bit older, you think, â€˜I wish Iâ€™d have done that.â€™ Donâ€™t pass that opportunity over.â€
Mr. Murphy said the job requires someone who, at minimum, doesnâ€™t mind a lot of time alone. He described the winter as â€œvery harsh indeed,â€ with storms bringing heavy wind and rain. â€œYou are virtually stuck on the island alone.â€
And once youâ€™re there, you have only so many ways to leave. When the tide recedes, itâ€™s possible to walk â€” carefully, if you know the way â€” across two miles of sand. But when the tide returns, the only transport is a small ferry that Mr. Murphy described as â€œa rowing boat with a little engine on the back.â€