The decision to return the OBE stemmed from a deeper understanding of the relationship between Wales, where Sheen is from, and the British state, prior to delivering a lecture in 2017, the actor told journalist Owen Jones in a video interview published Tuesday.
In 2017, Sheen delivered the Raymond Williams Lecture, named after the late Welsh theorist, addressing themes of Welsh culture and identity. In the lecture, Sheen referred to how the Prince of Wales title, held by the heir apparent to the British throne, was bestowed by King Edward I upon his son, as part of his quelling a Welsh rebellion.
“In my research to do that lecture, I learnt a lot about Welsh history,” Sheen told Jones. “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 stressed that he was incredibly honored to receive the OBE and it helped him in all sorts of ways.
“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. The actor said he did not want to publicize his returning the honor at that time.
Charles, the current Prince of Wales, will forfeit the title when he ascends the throne. Sheen said 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. That would be an incredibly meaningful thing I think to happen.”
The relationship between Wales and the monarchy was detailed in a season three episode of “The Crown,” in which a 20-year-old Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) is sent to Wales to learn Welsh ahead of receiving his title, and is met with a frosty reception by locals.