A Devon boy separated from his mum for 52 days by coronavirus was reunited with her following the direct intervention of United Arab Emirates royalty.
Seven-year-old Archie Appleyard wrote to His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, the Emirate where his family lives, pleading for his help to bring his mother home after she became stranded in the UK by Covid restrictions.
Archie’s mum Jessica Fitzjohn travelled to the UK more than 50 days ago to attend the funeral of her father but was unable to return to Archie and her husband Richard, who works as a health and safety manager in the construction industry in the UAE.
Touched by the letter, His Highness sent back a handwritten reply and intervened personally with the authorities - the next day she was on a plane home.
The family have lived in the UAE for three years and come from Down St Mary, near Crediton, but Richard previously lived in Barnstaple and used to play rugby for the town.
Archie, who attends the RAK Academy, sent a handwritten letter and drawing to HH Sheikh Saud explaining the family’s plight and asking for his help.
In the note, he recalled meeting His Highness with his classmates last year and said he remembered him as a ‘very kind, helpful sheikh’.
Archie’s letter to HH Sheikh Saud was accompanied by a drawing titled ‘the day my mummy comes back home to me’ showing him and his father waiting as the plane carrying his mother arrived in the UAE.
He wrote to the ruler: “It has been 52 sleeps now that I have been apart from my mummy.
“I feel so sad because I have never been apart for this long and all I dream and wish for is my mummy’s return and our family to be back together in Al Hamra Village.”
HH Sheikh Saud personally responded to Archie and said he recalled meeting him.
He wrote: “Dear Archie, thank you for your letter, I enjoyed reading it. I remember meeting you and having a great day with you and your classmates.
“I understand you miss your mommy very much and I am very proud of you for being a brave boy. I hope bringing her home will make you smile.”
The family were ecstatic to be reunited. Archie said: “I am so happy to have my mommy back.
“I can’t believe that this has happened and thank you so much to Sheikh Saud.”
Jessica added: “I can’t thank the Ruler enough for his kindness in organising my return. I will be so ever grateful for this moment. Thank you very much to everyone involved.”
Archie’s father, Richard, said everyone was overjoyed to be together again, adding: “We are absolutely overwhelmed to have received a handwritten letter from His Highness. We are forever thankful.”