The only thing I’ve ever been given by Queen Elizabeth was a response to a letter I wrote her about god knows what. I was about seven, so I was likely asking her if she is allowed to stay up late to watch The Simpson’s. I’ve never been mad at The Queen for any reason, so I don’t know what I would do with that letter (I’m kidding, I’d absolutely sell it on eBay). Michael Sheen got something from The Queen in 2009; she presented him with the Order of the British Empire. And when Michael decided it was no longer the honor it once was, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. Michael Sheen packed it up and sent it back to Her Majesty.
Every year, The Queen, or Prince Charles, or Prince William, depending on who is available, awards notable British citizens with the Order of the British Empire, a title which acknowledges their contributions to culture, charity, or civil service. It comes with the title OBE, and a little silver cross medal that kind of looks like the one Dracula wears. Michael Sheen was an OBE recipient back in 2009, in acknowledgment of his long career in British TV, film, and theater. Michael Sheen was born in Newport, Wales, which is a member of the United Kingdom. He’s won a BAFTA, a Theatre Award UK, and a Laurence Olivier Award, and he famously played Tony Blair in The Queen, so it makes sense that he’d one day get such an honor. And at the time, he looked happy about it!
— Michael Sheen Source (@msheensource) November 7, 2019
Michael was asked about his OBE during a YouTube interview with The Guardian columnist Owen Jones, who asked why Michael would have accepted such a title, when he’s very pro-Wales. Wales is currently a country of the commonwealth, and some Welsh people have started questioning why so much stuff in their country is British. Like Prince Charles, whose official title is Charles, Prince of Wales. Michael says his decision to return his OBE was made after he wrote and researched a lecture a few years ago on Welsh academic Raymond Williams, who once wrote a piece titled “Who Speaks For Wales?” Michael’s lecture was all about who speaks for Wales now, and he realized it would be pretty hypocritical of him to keep his OBE honor and deliver a lecture all about how The Queen should mind her own business and leave Wales alone. So, he returned it in 2017. via Deadline:
“In my research, to do that lecture, I learnt a lot about Welsh history. By the time I finished typing that lecture…I remember sitting there and thinking ‘well I have a choice’ either don’t give this lecture and hold on to my OBE or I give this lecture and give the OBE back. I wanted to do the lecture so I gave my OBE back.”
Sheen said he meant no disrespect by the gesture and was “incredibly honored” to receive the gong in 2009. “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,” he added.
Michael really, really stresses that he meant no offense or disrespect by returning his OBE to sender. But what happened to the OBE? Do they recycle them? Throw them in the trash? Maybe Queen Elizabeth gave it to her grandson Prince George. He likes to collect stuff. “Here you go kid, it’s a fancy pin that used to belong to the guy who played it way too weird in the Twilight franchise.”
Here’s Michael explaining why he gave back his OBE: