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Times columnist takes swipe at Michael Sheen for handing back OBE

31 Dec 2020 3 minute read
Michael Sheen. Picture by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A Times columnist has taken a swipe at Michael Sheen for handing back his OBE.

The Welsh actor recently revealed he’d handed back the gong in an interview with Guardian columnist Owen Jones, on his YouTube channel, which led to criticism from Edward Lucas.

The privately educated columnist, who also incorrectly referred to Wales as a “principality” claimed that “grander Welsh dignitaries” than him “wear their robes and medals proudly.”

He also defended Winston Churchill’s decision to turn down a dukedom, which he regarded as a more “distinguished” refusal.

Michael Sheen, who has given away much of his personal wealth to help the homeless, quietly made the decision to hand back the OBE he received in 2009 for services to drama while researching the history of Wales for his 2017 Raymond Williams lecture.


‘British state’ 

He said he would have felt like a “hypocrite” if said the things he was going to say in the lecture about Wales’ relationship with the British state if he kept it.

Edward Lucas said: “He joins a few Bufton Tufton types who handed back their gongs when the Beatles got MBEs in 1965 and the left-wing commentator Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

“Mr Sheen’s stance is hard to understand. He may lambast himself for his past ignorance about Welsh history but he has only himself to blame for that.

“If he joylessly objects to the honours system in principle, he should never have accepted the medal in the first place.

“If he likes honours in theory but thinks that Britain’s record is too awful to award them, he should ask himself if any bestower of medals is sufficiently impeccable.

“Seeing Wales as a country under Soviet-style occupation by a monolithic English colonial establishment, as Mr Sheen seems to do, is particularly perverse.

‘Far grander’ 

“Far grander Welsh dignitaries than he, not least the former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd (now Lord) Elis-Thomas, wear their robes and medals proudly.

“If Mr Sheen really wants to carry the torch for Owen Glendower, or Owain Glyndwr, to give the last native Prince of Wales his proper spelling, he can devote his energies to supporting the principality’s (now-thriving) language and culture. Which risks another gong, of course.”

Michael Sheen said: “Raymond Williams famous wrote a piece called Who Speaks For Wales in 1971 – and I took that as my starting point for the lecture as in who speaks for Wales now? And 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.

He added: “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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