The Donald Trump Superfan Who Lives In A Castle In England
Scientologist John Mappin, who owns a castle called Camelot at the end of a planned railway line that was never built, has awarded Trump a "knighthood" in preparation for his hoped-for victory in the US presidential election.
Donald Trump's biggest fan in Britain can be found in a castle on the edge of a cliff on the north coast of Cornwall.
In the tiny village of Tintagel, this heir to a jewellery dynasty has combined the prestigious foresight he says was gifted to him by Scientology with the legend of King Arthur to herald what “could be the best thing for the political system of the world to happen literally for centuries”.
Those are the words of John Mappin, part of the Mappin & Webb family, the Queen’s jewellers, and the owner of Camelot Castle, a vast and unusual Victorian hotel where he has launched a digital TV network inspired by his passion for Trump.
Last June, when pundits ridiculed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mappin saw something different. He took odds as long as 30-1 and placed bets totalling more than £2,000 on the Manhattan property baron.
The hotelier and Scientologist says he now stands to win £10,000 when Trump’s nomination is formally sealed, and more than £110,000 if he goes all the way to the White House.
“I’ve never gambled and don’t agree with gambling,” Mappin says at the hotel, which looks out on Tintagel’s real castle, the ruin known as the birthplace of the King Arthur myth. “But I have a heightened ability to perceive outcomes…and when I saw this Trump thing I just said, ‘Listen, these pundits have got it wrong’.”
"He is an expert in crisis management and he’s not owned – he’s funding his own campaign. This guy’s intelligence is off the charts.”
Mappin’s conviction mounted with each step in Trump’s unlikely success. But a long-held interest in the media inspired something more, as the hotelier saw potential in Trump’s easy operation in studios, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
“I thought, I’m going to turn Camelot Castle into a social media hub, and use the power of the icon of Camelot and King Arthur to do it,” he says.
That this is a media hub like no other becomes clear as soon as I step into the hotel’s grand lobby. Mappin bought the pebbledashed pile, which has 65 rooms, in 1999, a century after it opened at the end of a planned railway line that was never built.
Then, and even more so today, the village relied on tourism drawn to Tintagel Castle, which dates back almost a thousand years and is managed by English Heritage.
Right ahead of me in the main hall, at the foot of the staircase, Mappin has turned a giant carved round table, a replica of the renowned Winchester Round Table, into a TV studio with a green-screen backdrop.
It was at this table that Mappin and his Kazakh wife Irina launched the Camelot Castle TV Network in January this year, a month later using it to record an impassioned endorsement of Trump. In the video, which has had more than 70,000 views via the network’s Facebook page, Mappin also presents the would-be president with a "knighthood".
“It is with great pleasure that we are writing to you to notify you that you have been awarded an Honorary Knighthood of Camelot Castle by the Noble Order of Camelot Castle,” Mappin explains in an accompanying letter, which he sent to Trump last month. “This is very rarely awarded by the Order, and then, only for extraordinary acts of Nobility.”
Mappin goes on to explain how the birth last year of the couple’s first child had made them question “the state of the world that a new spirit is arriving into,” adding: “When we saw the launch of your campaign and its development the spark of hope that you had ignited turned into a light of expectation in our hearts”.
He cites Trump’s work for veterans’ causes as evidence of his "Nobility", and believes the self-styled “master of the deal” has the power to cure the world's economic ills.
“He’s one of the few people who can get his head round it,” Mappin says in his lavishly decorated private drawing room, where he wears a blue blazer over a pair of unusual mottled brown jeans and suede moccasins (when I ask where the trousers are from, he replies: “Austria”).
“He is an expert in crisis management and he’s not owned – he’s funding his own campaign,” Mappin adds. “This guy’s intelligence is off the charts.”
But it is the strength of his powers of prediction that seems to excite Mappin the most, and this is where we return to Scientology. He discovered the controversial belief system in Hollywood, where he worked in film as a young man (mostly in distribution, but he dabbled as an actor and won a small role in Dark Secrets, an adult film directed by John T Bone. He was also in an episode of Sweet Valley High).
Mappin returned to Britain in 1997, where he had previously studied at Winchester College and worked briefly in the City, and brought Scientology back with him. Its presence slowly materialises in the hotel, where literature is piled on a grand piano next to the TV studio.
The oak-panelled walls hang with hundreds of paintings by Ted Stourton, who works in the basement. Mappin’s friend and business partner discovered Scientology himself after Mappin claims to have used its healing powers to bring the artist’s brother out of a coma.
Mappin says his belief and understanding of the “superpower technology” conceived by L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, improved his ability to “evaluate consequences and data streams”. In respect of Trump, he adds of his belief: “You can certainly evaluate somebody’s sanity to a greater degree than the average person.”
Mappin says the sales of Stourton's art help fund the running and restoration of the hotel, which he says is full in peak season. As he shows me round, three elderly couples take tea in the dining room with its sweeping sea views. Photos show famous visitors, including Nicolas Cage, who was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley, the Scientologist daughter of Elvis, and Kyle MacLachlan, the Twin Peaks actor.
Outside, he shows me a garishly painted Aston Martin parked on the grass not far from the gates. “That’s Ted’s new car,” he says. “He said he wanted an Aston and he’d done rather well with his art so we got him one. He drove it to Boscastle and back and basically didn’t want it so he painted it. Now people come and take selfies with it.”
Nearby, a helipad waits for guests with deep pockets. It was used in 2010 when a delegation flew in for an 80th birthday party for Nursultan Nazarbayev, the authoritarian president of Kazakhstan, the country that Irina left to study art in London.
Might the helipad soon welcome President "Sir" Donald Trump, knight of Camelot Castle and leader of the free world? “One would hope so,” Mappin says, while conceding that The Donald has not yet replied to his letter.
“But I’ve only just sent him the arms,” he adds. “I delayed it a bit because I was really thinking about that letter. I really wanted to put some thought into it because it’s sincere – I genuinely mean every word of it.”