Michael Sheen has revealed that he returned a prestigious royal honor that was bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II.
In 2009, the Welsh actor was given an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to drama, an honor awarded to stars including Keira Knightley, Ewan McGregor and David Oyelowo in recent years.
But in a video interview with journalist Owen Jones released Tuesday, Sheen explained why he chose to give the honor back in 2017. That year, he gave a Raymond Williams Society lecture about Welsh culture, identity and "who speaks for Wales." The lecture called on the British monarchy to end the centuries-old practice of handing the title of Prince of Wales to the heir apparent to the English throne.
"In my research to do that lecture, I learned 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.' "
"At the time when I did that, I said, 'I mean absolutely no disrespect by doing this. I don't want to cause a big fuss about it.' I genuinely felt incredibly honored when I was given it," Sheen continued. "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 added that he didn't announce that he gave back his OBE in 2017, fearing that people would be insulted. He also expressed hopes that the royal family will change its practices if and when Prince Charles accedes to the English throne after Queen Elizabeth II. Prince William, the current Duke of Cambridge, may become the new Prince of Wales.
"We're getting to a time when there's going to be a sort of changing of the guard in the royal family," Sheen said. "The queen, I think she's a remarkable person who's done exemplary service to the country, and sadly she won't be with us much longer, I guess. And when that changes, traditional requirements would mean that the Prince of Wales would become a new person and a new Englishman. It would be a really meaningful and powerful gesture for that title to no longer be held in the same way it has before."
Sheen was most recently seen in "Dolittle" and "How to Build a Girl" earlier this year, and played U.K. prime minister Tony Blair in 2006's "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Queen Elizabeth's OBE returned by Michael Sheen so he could speak out