This guy is taking “Daddy’s little princess” a bit too literally.
Jeremiah Heaton, a father of three from from Abingdon, Virginia, has claimed a patch of land between Egypt and Sudan as his “kingdom” so that his 7-year-old daughter, Emily, can be a real princess, the Associated Press reports.
Several months ago, Heaton was playing with Emily and she asked him if she would ever be a real princess. He informed her she would.
“At the time I had no idea how I would honor her wish but I knew that I had to find a way,” Heaton wrote in a Facebook post.
He started researching how he could accomplish this, and his investigation led him to Bir Tawil, an 800 square-mile area that, due to land disputes, is not claimed by either Egypt or Sudan. According to the AP, the mountainous region is one of the last unclaimed pieces of land on earth.
Heaton trekked through the desert in June and planted the “Heaton kingdom” flag — designed by his kids — in the soil of Bir Tawil. When he got home, he requested that everyone address his 7-year-old daughter as “Princess Emily.” He and his wife, Kelly, also got her a princess crown.
“It’s cool,” Princess Emily told the Bristol Herald-Courier.
Shelia Carapico, political science and international studies professor at the University of Richmond, told the Bristol Herald-Courier that likely both Egypt and Sudan will have to recognize Heaton’s stake as legitimate before he has any legal claim over the land.
Heaton says he is pursuing “formal recognition” from African countries and is “confident” his claim will be taken seriously. Egyptian and Sudanese embassy representatives did not return requests for comment from the Washington Post.
Princess Emily told the Bristol Herald-Courier that she is concerned about children in the region having enough food.
Her father says he plans to use his newfound sovereignty to set up an “agricultural hub” for the area and says his “nation” will have “a clear purpose of helping other people.”
It’s unclear whether Heaton’s other two children, Caleb and Justin, will be adopting the titles of “Prince.”
And why is Bir Tawil unclaimed in the first place? According to Atlas Obscura, an 1899 treaty says Bir Tawil is the property of Sudan and, in return, awards Egypt a piece of land called Hala’ib, which is much larger and more resource-rich than Bir Tawil.
A 1902 treat, however, gives Halai’b to Sudan and Bir Tawil to Egypt. Because both countries want Halai’b, they each recognize only the country that awards Halai’b to themselves. To this day, neither will claim Bir Tawil because doing so would mean they recognize the other country’s claim to Hala’ib.