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Michael Sheen Returns British Honor Due to Views on Monarchy


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Michael Sheen has returned an honor presented to him by Queen Elizabeth so he could air his views on the British monarchy without appearing like a “hypocrite.”

The Welsh star, who was given an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2009 for services to drama, said in an online interview that he decided to give up the honor after conducting research into the history of Wales and its torturous relationship with England, particularly the centuries-old practice of handing the title of Prince of Wales to the heir apparent to the English throne, for the 2017 Raymond Williams Society lecture.

“In my research to do that lecture, I learned a lot about Welsh history,” Sheen said, adding, “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’.”

The 51-year-old actor, who memorably played Tony Blair in The Queen, explained why he waited to reveal that he had returned the award. “I didn’t mean any disrespect but I just realized 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,” Sheen said, adding that he decided not to announce his decision to hand back the honor in 2017 as he feared some people would find it insulting.

Prince William, the current Duke of Cambridge, will become Prince of Wales when his father Charles accedes to the English throne. Charles’ difficulties in assuming the mantle of Prince of Wales is dramatized in season three of the Netflix series The Crown. 

Sheen joins a long list of British stars who have either returned or refused a royal honor, a list which includes the likes of musicians John Lennon, Paul Weller and David Bowie, directors Danny Boyle and Ken Loach and comic actor John Cleese.

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