The Welsh actor was awarded the Order of the British Empire at the 2009 New Years Awards for his contribution to drama.
Sheen shared the news that he returned the award during an interview with journalist Owen Jones, stating that he did so because he did not want to be a “hypocrite.”
The 51-year-old said the decision was triggered by his extensive research into Welsh history, a “crash course” he took after being asked to attend the annual Raymond William Memorial Lecture of Learning and Work in November Institutes to speak 2017.
“I learned a lot about Welsh history while researching this talk […] and when I finished writing this talk on this laptop I’m talking to you about, ”he said. “I remember sitting there and saying,” Well, I have a choice: either I don’t give this talk and hold on to my OBE, or I give this talk and I have to return my OBE. “
Sheen added that he would have realized that he would have been a “hypocrite” if he had kept the award and still delivered the talk on “the nature and history of the relationship between Wales and the British state”.
An increasing focus on the history of racism and its legacy of the British Empire, including the price’s association with the country’s imperial past, has led to a review of the Queen’s honors.
The Underworld star made it clear that he had “not meant disrespect by return” and stated that he “did not want to cause great fuss about it”.
“I was really feeling incredibly honored to receive it and it meant a lot to me and my family,” Sheen added. The actor went on to recognize that the award “helped in many ways”, particularly in the “non-acting stuff” area.
When asked why it took three years for news of his decision to break out, the award-winning Bafta actor revealed he didn’t want to go to the trouble of spreading it.
Sheen noted, however, that he always planned to be “transparent” if anyone ever asked him what no one had until Jones.
The actor also spoke about the recent debate over the name of the Second Severn Crossing motorway bridge between England and Wales.
The bridge was renamed Prince of Wales Bridge in April 2018. A petition against the renaming received more than 30,000 signatures.
“These things [names] Have power, ”Sheen said. “The idea that the Prince of Wales is an Englishman and the story of it… why Edward made his son Prince of Wales because it was part of containing the Welsh uprising.
“These are things that happened so long ago, but these things are resonant.”
Sheen isn’t the first person to return or reject a queen’s honor. Howard Gayle, the first black Liverpool Football Club player to campaign for the anti-racism organization Show Racism the Red Card, turned down an MBE in 2016.
In a Facebook post, Gayle wrote that he had turned down the award “because my ancestors would give up their graves after empire and colonialism enslaved them”.
Earlier this year, Sheen starred as the game show host Chris Tarrant on ITVs quiz, a series based on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Scandal in which Major Charles Ingram and his wife Diana pocketed the £ 1 million cash prize in 2001.
His comedy Staged returns to BBC One next month.