When a Virginia girl told her father she wanted to be a princess, her father went to extremes to make sure her wish would come true.
Instead of traveling to the local mall to find a princess costume, Jeremiah Heaton, 38, trekked across the Egyptian desert to find one of the last pieces of unclaimed land on earth for his daughter, Emily.
“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, a father of three from Abingdon, Va., told The Washington Post.
“As a parent, you sometimes go down paths you never thought you would.”
Heaton, who could not be reached today by ABC News, explained in a Facebook post that he began researching how to make his daughter a princess last winter after Emily, then 6, asked her father whether she could become a real princess.
Heaton began with an online search of unclaimed lands around the world and, by June, was making the 14-hour caravan journey through the Egyptian desert to reach an unclaimed nearly 800-square-mile patch of land along the Sudanese border. Heaton says he requested permission from the Egyptian authorities to visit the area.
"I cannot stress how kind and generous the Egyptian people are," Heaton told the Post.
The land, known to locals as Bir Tawil, was claimed by Heaton June 16, which Emily’s seventh birthday, according to the post on Heaton's Facebook page.
"Therefore, so be it proclaimed on June 16, 2014, Emily's 7th birthday, that Bir Tawil shall be forever known as the Kingdom of North Sudan. The Kingdom is established as a sovereign monarchy with myself as the head of state; with Emily becoming an actual Princess," Heaton wrote.
"I kindly request that when you see Emily, to 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 continued. "Thank you in advance for being a good sport in supporting my humble request of you."
The photo of Heaton that accompanies the Facebook post shows the father standing in front of a blue flag with four stars and a crown that he says was designed by his children.
While Emily is already sleeping in a princess bed and being addressed as “Princess Emily” back home in Virginia, whether the Heatons can actually lay claim to the land is up for dispute.
Experts say Heaton will need permission from neighboring countries or the United Nations at the least to gain actual political control of his self-described kingdom.
A former congressional candidate, Heaton says he will work with the African Union to establish the Kingdom of North Sudan.
“I do intend to pursue formal recognition with African nations,” Heaton told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I feel confident in the claim we’ve made,” he told the newspaper. “That’s the exact same process that has been done for thousands of years. The exception is this nation was claimed for love.”
“Princess Emily” and her siblings, Justin and Caleb, are now working with their father to decide what do to with the land but are leaning toward turning their kingdom into an “agricultural hub,” Heaton told the Times-Dispatch.
“They are really getting into the idea,” Heaton said of Emily, Justin and Caleb. “I think the idea of a nation with a clear purpose of helping other people. I think that’ll be well-received and we’ll get recognition from other nations to partner with.”
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