Virginia Dad Treks to Africa, Claims Country for Daughter

Emily Heaton wanted to be a real princess
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2014 7:31 AM CDT
Virginia Dad Treks to Africa, Claims Country for Daughter
Princess Emily Heaton, 7, smiles as she talks about her father's birthday present to her July 2, 2014 in Abingdon, Va.   (AP Photo/Bristol Herald Courier, David Crigger)

Most dads would probably say they'd do anything for their daughters, but only one that we know of has actually traveled to an unclaimed patch of land in the African desert, planted a flag, and declared himself king—all so his little girl could officially be a princess. Jeremiah Heaton's strange journey started when little Emily, then 6, asked him last winter if she could be an actual princess. Heaton said yes, and he didn't want to lie ... which is why, months later, he made his way from his home in Virginia to Egypt and then through the desert into Bir Tawil, an 800-square-mile patch of unclaimed land along the Sudanese border. On June 16, the day Emily turned 7, he declared it the "Kingdom of North Sudan" and planted a flag designed by his three children.

"I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true," Heaton explains to the Washington Post. He did the necessary research, he says, learning that Bir Tawil is (or was) an unclaimed territory thanks to a border dispute between Sudan and Egypt; then he got permission from Egyptian authorities to travel there. But, an expert tells the Bristol Herald Courier, Heaton will need to get legal recognition from neighboring countries or the UN—and he says he intends to pursue that formal step next. He notes that people have been planting flags to claim land throughout history, and that the only difference here is that "this nation was claimed for love," not as a result of war or imperialism. His plan is to turn it into an agricultural production center; it was important to Princess Emily (who does have a crown and sleeps in a castle bed) to provide food to children in the region. (Click for another touching father-daughter story.)

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