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Michael Sheen reveals why he relinquished his OBE in 2017

Michael Sheen was made an OBE in 2009 (Lewis Whyld/PA)
Michael Sheen was made an OBE in 2009 (Lewis Whyld/PA)

Michael Sheen has revealed he gave up his OBE so he could air his views about the monarchy without being a “hypocrite”.

The actor, 51, said the decision had been prompted by researching the history of his native Wales and its relationship with the British state for his 2017 Raymond Williams lecture.

Speaking during an interview with newspaper columnist Owen Jones, Sheen said the “crash course” had made him realise he could not both deliver his lecture and hold on to the honour.

GQ Men of the Year Awards 2019 – London
Michael Sheen and his partner Anna Lundberg (Matt Crossick/PA)

He said: “In my research to do that lecture, I learnt a lot about Welsh history. And by the time I’d finished writing that lecture on this laptop that I’m talking to you on right now, 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’.”

Sheen, from Port Talbot, said Wales and England’s shared history was still a point of contention for many Welsh people.

He pointed towards the controversy caused by the decision to rename the second Severn crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge in 2018. A petition against the move received more than 30,000 signatures.

“These things have power,” Sheen said.

Prince of Wales comments
The Prince of Wales (Niall Carson/PA)

“The idea of the Prince of Wales and that being an Englishman and the history of that.

“Why Edward made his son the Prince of Wales (was) because it was part of keeping down the Welsh rebellion.

“These are things that happened so long ago but these things are resonant.”

Charles, the current Prince of Wales, is due to forfeit the title when he ascends the throne.

Sheen suggested it would be a “really meaningful and powerful gesture for that title to no longer be held in the same way as it has before”.

Sheen, who has portrayed famous faces on screen including Tony Blair and Sir David Frost, was made an OBE in the 2009 New Year Honours for his services to drama.

He told Jones he had decided not to announce his decision to hand back the honour in 2017 as he feared some people would find it insulting.

He said: “I didn’t mean any disrespect but I just realised I’d be a hypocrite if I said the things I was going to say in the lecture about the nature of the relationship between Wales and the British state.”

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