Michael Sheen handed back his OBE three years after for fear of becoming a ‘hypocrite’

The Queen: Michael Sheen recalls receiving OBE in 2012

Actor Michael Sheen, 51, admitted he gave back his OBE title three years after receiving it because he didn’t want to feel like a “hypocrite” when he was awarded the honour back in 2009. During a recent interview with journalist Owen Jones, the Welsh star revealed he made the decision to give up the New Year’s Honour for his services to drama, after learning more about the history of Wales and its relationship with Britain.

I either don’t give this lecture and hold onto my OBE or I give this lecture and I have to give my OBE back

Michael Sheen

It came after he came across a piece of research while preparing to give the 2017 Raymond Williams Lecture, named after the Welsh writer.

He confessed he has never spoken about his decision to hand it back because he didn’t want to “publicise” it, but he would always be “transparent” if anyone ever asked.

Not wanting to be considered a “hypocrite”, he explained: “Raymond Williams famously wrote a piece called Who Speaks for Wales? in 1971 and I took that as the starting point for my Raymond Williams Lecture to do ‘Who speaks for Wales now?’.

“In my research to do that lecture I learnt a lot about Welsh history.

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“By the time I’d written that lecture, and I think I’d been given the OBE a year before, or maybe two years before, I remember sitting there going ‘I have a choice, I either don’t give this lecture and hold onto my OBE or I give this lecture and I have to give my OBE back.'”

He admitted that the importance of doing the lecture meant he chose that above keeping the title.

“I wanted to still give the lecture so I gave my OBE back,” he shrugged.

Sheen wanted to make it known that he meant “absolutely no disrespect” in returning the OBE, and that he had felt “incredibly honoured” to have received it, noting it had helped his career both inside and outside of acting.

“I didn’t mean any disrespect I just realised that I’d be a hypocrite if I said the things that I as going to in the lecture about the relationship with Wales and the British state and the history of it all those sorts of things,” he said.

Sheen previously recalled the time he stepped up to receive a gong from Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace, and how she indicated that his time with her was over by shaking his hand and then pushing him away.

Speaking on The Graham Norton Show, he told the host: “She shakes your hand again, and because she must meet so many people obviously all the time, and presumably so many people must have quite ‘rabbit in the headlights’ with her.

“So she does this thing where she shakes your hand, and when it’s time for you to go, she just sort of shoves you away like that.

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“And I come from Port Talbot which is quite rough and I was like woah, backing off,” he laughed as he put his fists up as if to mock-fight the Queen.

Once she had put the medal on him, she asked him what he was doing next: “The truth was that I was about to do a film called Tron, but I thought that probably wouldn’t go down well with the Queen, she might not get that and I’ve only got a short amount of time to talk to her,” the actor continued.

“So I said I’m doing another film about ex-Prime Minister Blair and this one’s about his relationship with President Bill Clinton.

“And she got a little sparkle in her eye and she said, ‘ooh that must be awfully difficult.’”

Sheen received his OBE shortly after portraying the controversial Blair in the film The Queen.

He said that driving into Buckingham Palace was a surreal experience, because they had recreated it for the film and so he felt actually “quite at home”.

He said: “We drove in there, and it was strangely like deja vu because we had recreated it for the film The Queen, so I sort of felt quite at home there. Like yeah, I’ve done this before.”

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