A Virginia father took the idea of "Daddy's Little Princess" — a phrase seen on everything from baby bibs to pink T-shirts — to the next level, claiming a plot of the African desert as his kingdom so his daughter could, in fact, be a real princess. But not everyone thinks this is bound to win him father of the year, except perhaps in his own daughter's eyes.
“As a parent you sometimes go down paths you never thought you would,” Jeremiah Heaton of Abingdon, Virginia, told the Washington Post over the weekend.
About a month ago, Heaton traveled to an unclaimed, 800-square-foot area in the Egyptian desert near Sudan's border and put down a homemade flag calling it the Kingdom of North Sudan. Heaton said he is now king and his 7-year-old daughter Emily the princess of this kingdom, which has a population of zero and is locally identified as Bir Tawil.
Jeremiah Heaton plants a flag in the Egyptian desert near Sudan's border, claiming it the Kingdom of North Sudan. (Image source: Jeremiah Heaton/Facebook)
“I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true,” the father, who ran but then dropped a 2012 bid for a seat in Congress, said.
In a Facebook post, where Heaton proclaimed his domination of the new kingdom, he "kindly" requested that if anyone happened to see Emily that they "address her by official title, Princess Emily."
"Each time she hears this title she will be reminded of my love and the lengths I will go to fulfill her every wish," he wrote. "Thank you in advance for being a good sport in supporting my humble request of you."
Heaton with his daughter, Emily, in front of the flag they made to identify the kingdom. (Image source: Jeremiah Heaton/Facebook)
While the idea of balking against the "princess-culture" is nothing new, some are taking a strong stance against Heaton's actions for various reasons. Gawker called the "clueless" father's move both "cringeworthy and baffling."
Others agree that Heaton took things a bit too far.
Yup, this is too far. Even for love: #NOVA man creates "North Sudan," so daughter can be a princess: http://t.co/XuIczybjVv via @bcarancibia— Sean McDonald (@Sean McDonald)1405345743.0
Bizarre-land: US man claims 800 sq. miles of contested land b/w #Egypt & #Sudan, names his daughter "princess." Wow. http://t.co/RV7URALOA7— Karol Boudreaux (@Karol Boudreaux)1405345741.0
Disney princess culture officially taken too far @megsmcclure http://t.co/6I9vjul9s3 via @washingtonpost— Niki ⁷ (@Niki ⁷)1405343767.0
Before traveling to Egypt, even Heaton expressed that he was worried he was "going into a toxic environment." But he told the Post later that he learned differently and "cannot stress how kind and generous the Egyptian people are."
Others have pointed out that he doesn't really have any legal claim over the land — at least not yet.
Shelia Carapico, professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond, told the Bristol Herald Courier that Heaton needs to get legal recognition from neighboring countries or the United Nations. She also pointed out that other people might already own the land, even if it's uninhabited.
“I do intend to pursue formal recognition with African nations,” Heaton told the newspaper.
To make nice with neighbors, Emily's first order of business is to make sure children in the area have enough food.
“That’s definitely a concern in that part of the world,” Heaton told Bristol Herald Courier. “We discussed what we could do as a nation to help.”