I am honoured to have many American friends who are some of the most cultured and enlightened people it is my pleasure to know, so I think it’s a great shame when Americans are stereotyped as people who are ignorant of history. With this in mind, it is only fair to point out that Britons can be equally guilty of having the most tenuous grasp of the known facts and the most recent example of this to come to my attention concerns John Mappin, the co-owner of the Camelot Castle hotel in Tintagel, Cornwall.
Mr Mappin recently announced that he was knighting the US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who would henceforth be known at the Camelot Castle hotel as “Sir Donald Trump of Camelot”. Details of the ceremony are extremely vague, so it seems that to become a member of what Mr Mappin describes elsewhere as The “Noble Order of Camelot Castle”, all that’s required is a spoken decree rather than a physical investiture.
In an interview with BBC Spotlight on his Facebook page, Mr Mappin states that Donald Trump is “one of the most noble men today” and concludes by saying “I think King Arthur would be proud”. I find these convictions very strange and at odds with everything we know about Arthur and his knights, who were renowned for their chivalry. I frankly doubt that this Once and Future King would approve of someone who publicly mocks menstruating women and disabled reporters, as well as pouring scorn on the service record of the Vietnam veteran John McCain, a man who was shot down, seriously injured and tortured, but who nonetheless refused an early repatriation offer.
Furthermore, Arthur was known as the “King of the Britons”, a modern people who voted in sufficient numbers to get a Parliament to debate a ban on Donald Trump visiting Britain, on account of what they felt were his odious views that were incompatible with British values. It’s natural that I cannot help wondering which previously unheard-of version of Arthur’s history Mr Mappin has familiarised himself with, but it’s his hotel and I suppose he can do what he wants to with it.
What really amazes me, however, is how the BBC took all this sufficiently seriously to send a camera crew and a presenter down to speak to him. I’ve watched the interview several times and it defies all credulity how the journalist Heidi Davey treats the whole thing as if it concerned a real investiture – concerning someone like Sir Mick Jagger, for example – when this laughable ‘knighthood’ has no relevance or meaning whatsoever outside Mr Mappin’s imagination or the walls of his hotel, while it seems as if even Donald Trump is too embarrassed to acknowledge it, let alone turn up to accept it.
Perhaps all this is just sour grapes on my part, because I admit I would love to be interviewed at length by Heidi and to have my image and words beamed into admiring homes all over the West Country. I would be happy to talk about my book that deals with the famous legends of Jesus visiting those parts “in ancient time”, but I suspect this wouldn’t be interesting or relevant enough to capture the attention of the editors at the BBC.
On reflection, I feel that if I really want to be questioned in detail on camera about my views, I’d be better advised to spend my time composing a press release announcing that I’m granting a presidential pardon to Charles Manson. Or that I’m making John Lennon a saint. Or that I’m awarding Ozzy Osbourne a Nobel Peace Prize. Or that I’m excommunicating the Bishop of Plymouth. Or that I’m appointing Ian Duncan Smith our ambassador to North Sentinel Island. Of course, I don’t have any power to actually do any of these things, just as John Mappin has no power to grant a knighthood, but if it means being interviewed by Heidi Davey, then it’s worth a try, while the fact that I was really was once a knight might just tip the scales in my favour – we’ll see.