Jeremiah Heaton was playing with his daughter in their Abingdon, Virginia, home last winter when she asked whether she could be a real princess.
Heaton, a father of three who works in the mining industry, didn’t want to make any false promises to Emily, then 6, who was “big on being a princess.” But he still said yes.
“As a parent, you sometimes go down paths you never thought you would,” Heaton said.
Within months, Heaton was journeying through the desolate southern stretches of Egypt and into an unclaimed 800-square-mile patch of arid desert. There, on June 16 – Emily’s seventh birthday – he planted a blue flag with four stars and a crown on a rocky hill. The area, a sandy expanse sitting along the Sudanese border, morphed from what locals call Bir Tawil into what Heaton and his family call the “Kingdom of North Sudan.”
There, Heaton is the self- proclaimed king and Emily is his princess.
“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 said.