Creative Commons/Jacques LeSinge

The GEM Debate:
Should This Dad Get A Kingdom For His Princess?

Many little girls all over the world fantasize about being princesses. They read stories or have stories read to them about wearing crowns, beautiful dresses, and sparkly jewels. Their parents buy them princess regalia and they traipse around the house and pretend that they rule a kingdom. That’s how it goes down in my house and I’m betting that it’s about the same at your house.

This dad has taken it one step—or maybe 10 steps—further than you and I ever would. Jeremiah Heaton of Abingdon, Virginia, has a 7-year-old daughter, Emily. When she asked if she could be a real princess, he took her request seriously and literally. Not content to just buy into the Disney dream (as I would do), he is trying to get her the royal title of princess along with an 800-square-mile patch of desert in Africa for her to rule.

Heaton started his quest by searching the Internet for terra nullius, or unclaimed land, and received permission from Egyptian authorities to visit the plot of land called Bir Tawil, which is roughly half the size of Connecticut between Egypt and Sudan. The land lay unclaimed by its neighbors after a discrepancy in borders drawn in 1899 and 1902. The Heaton family calls it “Kingdom of North Sudan,” after he planted a homemade blue flag there on July 16, Emily’s birthday.

Heaton laying claim to the land is not cut-and-dry, however. To get real political authority, he has to receive legal recognition from other African nations, the United Nations, or other political groups. He says he wants to forge a positive relationship with the neighbors of the “Kingdom of North Sudan” by turning the arid desert into an agricultural production center.

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Given the African continent’s history of foreigners redrawing boundaries and planting a flag and saying, “It’s mine,” reasonable people would be hesitant to tread in those waters. Does Heaton have any idea what his push to establish a kingdom in Africa might look like to the rest of the world?

Heaton says, “I wanted to show my kids I will literally go to the ends of the earth to make their wishes and dreams come true.” I have no idea how Emily is being raised, so I can’t comment on whether this event is a natural part of her upbringing or if this is just the beginning of the ways she might grow up to be a spoiled brat.

This whole I’ll-get-a-kingdom-for-you thing feels like a really awful lesson for Emily and her siblings. She knows that her dad will do anything to make her happy, even if he has to kick up a potential political problem in another land to do it. That sounds like an awful precedent to set for her. I hope this is some kind of publicity stunt in an attempt to become reality show worthy, although a lot of time, money, and effort has gone into it if that’s what it really is.

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What do you think? Is Heaton being excessively overindulgent? Share your thoughts below.