Outspoken actor Michael Sheen's history of controversy

Outspoken actor Michael Sheen stirs controversy AGAIN: How anti-Brexit Welsh nationalist’s support for dropping Brecon Beacons’ English name is latest in long list of interventions… including pops at King Charles and Prince William

  • READ MORE — MPs lead backlash against ‘bonkers’ decision over Brecon name 

He rose to fame as a screen actor in the 2000s with starring roles in hit films including Frost/Nixon and The Queen.

But Michael Sheen has also made a name for himself in recent years as an outspoken Welsh nationalist on a string of political issues – including Brexit and even the Royal Family.

Sheen’s latest public intervention has seen him feature in a video about renaming the Brecon Beacons National Park to its Welsh counterpart Bannau Brycheiniog due to fears over the association with a wood-burning, carbon-emitting blazing beacon.

In the short promotional clip, he said: ‘I’m delighted to see them facing their challenges head-on and welcome the reclamation of the old Welsh name, an old name for a new way of being.’

Michael Sheen in a video explaining how the Brecon Beacons National Park will be renamed

Sheen criticised the King’s visit to Cardiff on September 16 last year, on Owain Glyndŵr day

One of the 53-year-old’s most recent controversies saw him claim in November 2022 that the Welsh people want the Royal Family to give up the Prince of Wales title because it has been used by the English as a ‘sign of dominance over a defeated Welsh people’.

Sheen took a series of swipes at Prince William after he met the England team and presented them with shirts for the World Cup in Qatar and wished them well. The star said it was ‘inappropriate’ for William to give them England shirts as the Prince of Wales – a title he believes should only be held by a Welshman.

William hit back subtly by insisting he will ‘support both teams’, but a source said he had been the English Football Association’s president since 2006 and is a fan. The insider said he felt it would seem ‘disingenuous’ to switch allegiance suddenly.

Rugby luminary Sir Gareth Edwards backed William and insisted the heir to the throne can support both England and Wales in Qatar.

Sheen also criticised King Charles III for visiting Cardiff in September last year on the same day as a medieval tradition celebrating the last native Prince of Wales.  The actor said the King and Queen Consort’s trip on Owain Glyndŵr day could be seen as ‘insensitive to the point of insulting’.

According to the Welsh actor, because the trip fell on an important historic date, it could have been seen as ‘insensitive’ if the royals chose that date on purpose.

Sheen also described Prince William’s visit to the England training centre last November, where he presented them with shirts for the World Cup in Qatar, as ‘entirely inappropriate’

Sheen gave back his OBE eight years after receiving it from the Queen in 2009 (pictured)

September 16 marks Owain Glyndŵr day. The same day in 1400 is when Glyndŵr began a 15-year uprising against the then-king of England, Henry IV, after which his followers would proclaim him Prince of Wales. The revolt is considered to be the last Welsh war of independence and Glyndŵr has since been viewed as a figurehead of Welsh nationalism and the independence movement.

Normally, thousands celebrate the life and legacy of the ‘rebel’ Prince of Wales. However, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September, a number of Glyndŵr day events were cancelled, prompting disappointment and anger in some communities, with some hosting their events.

Two years earlier in 2020, Sheen revealed he had handed back his OBE (Order of the British Empire) eight years after receiving it from the Queen, saying he wanted independence for his home country. 

The actor said he made the controversial move to avoid looking a hypocrite before giving a lecture on the history of his native Wales – including ‘past wrongs’ committed by England ‘to fracture us, to control us, to subdue us’.

The actor also said he had given up the honour so he could explore the ‘tortured history’ his native Wales shares with the English and British states. 

Speaking about his 2017 Raymond Williams lecture, he told Guardian columnist Owen Jones: ‘By the time I’d finished writing that lecture, 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’.’ 

He also said he had told Buckingham Palace at the time that he did not mean to be rude and felt ‘incredibly honoured’ to have received it back in 2009. 

And in 2017, Sheen split with US comedian and actress Sarah Silverman, revealing their relationship indirectly ended because of Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency. 

The couple parted ways in December that year after four years together. 

He said they split because of long distance – as he went back to the UK to explore why Brits voted in favour of Brexit, while Silverman chose to tour the US to interview people in the wake of Trump becoming president. 

Sheen said that he and Silverman felt in ‘different ways’ that they wanted to ‘get more involved’ in the political climate after Brexit and Trump’s election. 

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