A New Zealand man who claims to be the true King of England has gained a surprisingly large following from supporters of QAnon, including YouTube stars and minor aristocrats.

With the endless Brexit bickering followed immediately by a global pandemic, you might have missed another bit of important news that has taken place over the past year: the abdication of Queen Elizabeth II and her replacement on the throne by a New Zealander named Greg.

Joseph Gregory Hallett – or ‘King John III’, to use his preferred title – has penned a number of lengthy and important-looking legal documents that set out his claim to the throne, which rests on the allegation that our current Royal Family are actually of illegitimate lineage and that he is himself the true heir to the throne.

Hallett’s claim to the throne is not even his most ambitious pretence. In other documents he has repeatedly to be the “Mashiach-Christ-Messiah”:

His claims are based on some rather unorthodox evidence, with referenced sources ranging from screenshots of Wikipedia articles all the way to apparently subliminal messages encoded into the 2017 film The Mummy:


The King of QAnon

It would be tempting to dismiss these claims as the grandiose delusions of a harmless eccentric, but they actually represent something far more sinister. Thousands of people appear to have been taken in by Hallett, his following largely drawn from adherents of the toxic QAnon conspiracy theory. 

Hallett’s social media following has grown steadily over the past few months, with tens of thousands of people following his accounts across various platforms. On Facebook a whole network of groups and pages have been set up by supporters, with a combined following of over 45,000 people. 

One of Hallett’s supporters at an anti-lockdown protest in London, 19/09/2020

In discussion groups set up to promote Hallett, his supporters search for clues in current events that might indicate his imminent ascent to the throne. In October 2019, one of the ornamental crests on the gates of Buckingham Palace was damaged by a delivery truck and removed for repair; its absence was noted and viewed as a sign that the Queen had already been deposed and/or executed.

Photoshopped image of Buckingham Palace posted to Hallett’s website

Hallett’s audience is heavily dominated by adherents of QAnon, who believe that his ascension to throne will work in tandem with the role of Donald Trump in the USA, both working towards the defeat of an all-powerful Satanic cabal that has ruled the world for centuries. The British Royal Family, they believe, are part of this cabal, and have either been arrested or executed already.

The QAnon conspiracy theory itself is steeped in violent rhetoric, built upon the idea that the promised global awakening will be preceded by the mass trials and execution of thousands of liberal politicians, celebrities and other public figures for their supposed roles in assisting the cabal. This element of QAnon is central to their narrative, fuelled by the dark musings of the anonymous ‘Q’ since the earliest days of the conspiracy:

Q post #953

As with so many conspiracy theories, QAnon is also riven with antisemitic themes and narratives, with the Rothschild family and George Soros given key roles in its imagined cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles.


YouTubers and Aristocrats

Although Hallett’s support base is almost entirely made up of QAnon devotees, he remains a fringe figure in the wider movement. He has not had the endorsement of any major American Q influencers, let alone support from Q’s own posts. Instead, his support comes from figures like Charlie Ward, a British QAnon influencer who emerged on the scene earlier this year and has amassed an astonishing 170,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel since then.

Ward is a perfect example of how QAnon is diversifying far beyond its roots in hyper-partisan US political propaganda. His channel is prominently branded with QAnon slogans and symbols, but he invites onto his show a wide range of voices from preexisting and tangential conspiracy theories that have little to do with the traditional fare of QAnon.

From top left: Jack Kidd, Charlie Ward and Gregory Hallett on Ward’s YouTube channel

Another of Hallett’s enthusiastic promoters is Jack Kidd, the brother of supermodel Jodie Kidd and grandson of press tycoon Lord Beaverbrook, who is credited as a producer of Hallett’s self-made documentary The Hidden King.

A former professional polo player and minor celebrity, who occasionally appears in newspaper gossip pages for his colourful love life, Kidd has described how his experiences in the rarified world of professional polo led him to conclude that “all the super rich are evil […] and when the top of the pyramid is corrupted, everything is bad underneath it”.

Kidd was moved to support the claim of Greg Hallett after concluding that “the Royal Family are all fakers, they’ve done terrible things, and they won’t survive the Great Awakening” – a remarkable statement for someone who has himself moved in royal circles for years, including games of polo with Princes Charles and Harry.

Antisemitism and toxic politics

Nor can Hallett himself be seen as harmless. His social media shows a long history of toxic conspiracy theories and antisemitism, one which long predates the birth of QAnon in November 2017.

He has shared social media posts that promote the blood libel, the ancient smear that Jewish people drink the blood of children, and has alleged that “Crypto-Jews […] are in place in Governments to sabotage their Governments in favour of the Jewish Administrators”.

He also promotes the idea that terror attacks such as those in Manchester, Paris and Christchurch were hoaxes, and condemned the child victims of these attacks as “crisis actors” and “devil’s spawn”, as well as describing feminism as a “female paedophile movement”.

Antisemitic post shared by Hallett

Backlash

In addition to his failure to win over key US QAnon influencers, Hallett has also attracted considerable hostility from other parts of the conspiracy theory scene. There are dozens of YouTube videos from fellow travellers denouncing Hallett as a fraud, fantasist and even the Antichrist, an accusation that is something of an occupational hazard for anyone claiming to be the Messiah.

Even Hallett’s own family members have disavowed his fantasies, with two of his sisters appearing on video to denounce him for soliciting donations from followers while promoting a constant stream of conflicting cults and conspiracies for decades.

A growing number of former believers have also now turned their back on Hallett. One group set up to support his claims later turned against him, renaming itself from ‘KingJohn & Truth Seeking Private Group‘ to ‘Already exposed King John the turd‘. In many of the groups, posts detailing his supposedly imminent reign are met with a mix of supporting and disparaging comments, with former supporters expressing their frustration at the constant delays to their day of deliverance.

A sign of the times

After decades of promoting a variety of toxic ideas, Hallett’s sudden surge of popularity illustrates the way in which dangerous conspiracy theories and theorists are finding new life in 2020, many through being incorporated into the grand superconspiracy of QAnon.

From its roots in the intensely hyper-partisan and US-centric pro-Trump right, QAnon is developing into a broad and multifaceted phenomenon to which a seemingly endless quantity of false and conflicting ideas can be attached.

Our social media landscape, beset as it is by disinformation and conspiracy theory, is proving a fertile recruiting ground for grifters, fantasists and extremists. Hallett’s moment of popularity, however long it lasts, is a symptom of a much wider problem that will impact us all for years to come.