Michael Sheen Speech on Wales Sees New Light After Monarch’s Death

In the aftermath of the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8 2022, past comments by actor Michael Sheen on the effects of English dominion over his native Wales once again gained traction online.

For the second time in two years, social media influencer Owen Williams shared a clip of a speech by Sheen. Williams wrote:

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Listen to what Michael Sheen says. *Really* listen. Take it in.

He’s right.

The oppression our forefathers experienced at the hands of the UK State lives on today.

We are not *given* a voice.
We have to *take* it.

This isn’t their country. It’s ours.

In the clip Sheen says in part:

As the towns and villages that grew up around the coal fields and the iron works have been beaten down and forgotten about, seemingly even by the political party borne out of its struggles; as our squares and high streets are littered not only with cheap chicken and pizza shops but also thousands of empty chapels and darkened welfare halls; and as the dazzling promises that the offer of Britishness made seem to ring ever more hollow with each passing Welsh budget day, we are left with the realization that the world did indeed reshape itself. And we were, after all, left behind. No matter what deals we thought we made, the Pied Piper of Britishness danced us all down to the river, and then left us there.

The clip is authentic; it is an excerpt from Sheen’s speech at the Annual Raymond Williams Memorial Lecture in November 2017. (A full transcript of Sheen’s lecture can be downloaded here.)

Williams had previously posted the same clip in June 2021, saying, “We need more oratory like this. We need reminding of the perniciousness of Westminster’s absolute dominion.”

Sheen himself has not commented publicly on the monarch’s passing. In 2009, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his work. But in a December 2020 interview with journalist Owen Jones, the Good Omens star revealed that the research he did before giving the lecture prompted him to return the honor.

“I didn’t mean any disrespect,” Sheen said. “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 also received attention in September 2022 following an appearance on the sports quiz show A League Of Their Own (which is not related to the American movie and TV show of the same name), after host Romesh Ranganathan asked him what “rousing speech” he would give to the Welsh football squad for its World Cup match against England.

After getting himself in the right “headspace,” Steen said:

I hear the voices singing. Speed your journey, bois bach. [“Good heavens”] One nation, singing with one voice, a song of hope, a song of courage. A victory song that floats through the valleys, like a red mist — rolls over the mountain tops, like crimson thunder. A red storm is coming to the gates of Qatar. It crackles, with the spirit of ’58 and Jimmy Murphy’s boys. It turns the pages of the history books and finds Rob’s page, waiting, still to be written. What would you right in there, boys? Dare you write your names on that page? We haven’t waited 64 years and come half way around the world to be troubled by a neighbor from back home. When the English coming knock on our door, let’s give them some sugar, boys, let’s give them some Welsh sugar. They’ve always said we are too small, we are too slow, we are too weak, too full of fear. But yma o hyd [“Still Here,” a reference to the Welsh folk anthem of the same name], you sons of Speed, and they fall around us. We are still here.

The show’s tweet promoting the clip has been shared widely on social media. Fellow actor Michael Warburton’s own tweet calling Sheen “magnificent” has spread the clip even further.

Wales and England are scheduled to meet in World Cup group play on November 29 2022.