Scottish actor Alan Cumming returns OBE award on his 58th birthday in protest of ‘toxicity of empire’

Scottish actor Alan Cumming returns OBE award on his 58th birthday in protest of ‘toxicity of empire’

The actor said conversations about the role of monarchy, especially the way British Empire "profited" at the expense of indigenous people, opened his eyes.
28 Jan, 2023

Scottish actor Alan Cumming said on Friday he was giving back his OBE — Officer of the Order of the British Empire — award, saying his eyes had been “opened” over “the toxicity of empire”.

Writing on his Instagram page, the Instinct and The Good Wife actor, who also has US citizenship, said that while he had been “incredibly grateful” to receive the recognition in the 2009 Queen’s birthday honours list, he had recently changed his mind.

Cumming said he was awarded the OBE for his work as an actor as well as “for activism for equal rights for the gay and lesbian community”.

“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,” Cumming said.

“Also, thankfully, times and laws in the US have changed, and the great good the award brought to the LGBTQ+ cause back in 2009 is now less potent than the misgivings I have being associated with the toxicity of empire.”

Buckingham Palace did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cumming, who has won two Tony awards and a Laurence Olivier award for his theatre work, got US citizenship in 2008.

Cumming told his followers he had returned the OBE on his 58th birthday on Friday.

“I… explained my reasons and reiterated my great gratitude for being given it in the first place. I’m now back to being plain old Alan Cumming again,” he said.

Fellow actor Michael Sheen said in 2020 he had given back his OBE after looking into the “tortured history” between his native Wales and the English and British states.