Michael Sheen felt conflicted about speaking against the British monarchy while keeping the OBE status given to him by Queen Elizabeth II, so he returned the honour in order to express his opinion without appearing like a “hypocrite.”
Michael Sheen was made an OBE, The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, in the 2009 New Year Honours for his services to drama. The actor proudly accepted the honour from the Queen at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace and afterwards posed with the medal.
However, as the Welsh actor became more aware of the strained relationship between the British monarchy and his native land, he felt conflicted about keeping the Order of Chivalry. The realisation hit him while he was planning to discuss the “tortured history” of Wales and England in a 2017 Raymond Williams lecture.
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In the infamous address, the “Frost/Nixon” star had criticised the royal tradition of giving the title of Prince of Wales to the heir to the British throne, describing it as a ‘humiliation’ for the Welsh. He also called for the tradition to be scrapped when heir apparent Prince Charles becomes king and passes on the title to his son Prince William.
recently revealed that he had returned the OBE back when he gave the lecture, noting that he realised he would be a “hypocrite” if he keeps it while speaking against the monarchy.
Speaking to columnist Owen Jones, the 51-year-old explained: “In my research to do that lecture I learnt a lot about Welsh history. I’m still standing at the foothills of an understanding of all that, but that was a crash course.”
“By the time I’d finished writing that lecture, I remember sitting there going, ‘Well, I have a choice. I either don’t give this lecture and hold on to my OBE or I give this lecture and I have to give my OBE back. I wanted to still give the lecture so I gave my OBE back,'” he recalled.
The actor clarified that his returning the Order did not mean any disrespect to the British royal family, adding that the honour “meant a lot” to his family as well. He also admitted that the gravitas of the honour “helped” him in several ways.
Sheen, who didn’t immediately reveal that he had returned the OBE in 2017, said he meant “absolutely no disrespect by doing this” and therefore did not want to “cause a big fuss about it.” He clarified: “If someone asks me about it I would be transparent and no one has ever asked me.”
The father-of-two also hailed Queen Elizabeth II as a “remarkable person who’s done exemplary service to the country,” but reiterated that there should be at least a “break” in bestowing the Prince of Wales title to the heir apparent of Britain.
Sheen further said about the conflict between Wales and England: “People go, ‘Why are you getting so upset about things that happened hundreds of years ago?’ But it’s true, it still has a power here.”