British actor Alan Cumming returns royal honor over ‘toxicity’

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British actor Alan Cumming indicated in an Instagram post Friday that he was returning his Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire award, an honor originally given to him by Queen Elizabeth II in 2009 for his LGBT advocacy work in the U.S.

At the time, Mr. Cumming was “incredibly grateful to receive it,” as the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy were still in force in the U.S. 

Now, however, American laws have shifted leftward, so much so that the weight of the OBE honor, to the “Good Wife” and “Spy Kids” actor, no longer outweighs his moral qualms over the “toxicity of empire.”

“The Queen’s death and the ensuing conversations about the role of monarchy and especially the way the British Empire profited at the expense (and death) of indigenous peoples across the world really opened my eyes,” Mr. Cumming wrote.

Mr. Cumming is not the first famous Brit to return an Order of the British Empire award; “Frost/Nixon” actor Michael Sheen, a Welshman, returned his OBE in 2017 after learning more about Britain’s historical relationship with Wales.

John Lennon returned his Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire honor in 1969 in protest of “Britain’s involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts.”

The Beatles receiving MBE awards in 1965 also provoked their own wave of award renunciations, mainly from those who had received awards for military service; the renouncers included Hector Depuis, a member of Canada’s parliament, and Richard Pape, who twice escaped German captivity in World War II.

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