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A royal alliance: A complete history of the royal family and The Big Issue

The relationship between two great British institutions, the Monarchy and The Big Issue, goes back decades

When Windsor was announced as Harry and Meghan’s wedding venue, a right royal media storm kicked up. And the town’s homeless population was caught in the middle.

Rough sleepers should be swept off the streets ahead of the big day, council leader Simon Dudley urged police earlier this year. As an activist for homelessness charities, Harry confronted the row, albeit sideways. He and Meghan visited Social Bite, the increasingly famous Edinburgh cafe that trains homeless people. It didn’t take Sherlock to read this as an indication of the couple’s position.

The royal wedding has kept homelessness on the agenda. And in this week’s Big Issue we asked some of our Street Art contributors to help us celebrate the royal wedding – Big Issue style!

But this isn’t the first time the royals have crossed paths with The Big Issue which has enjoyed a long and storied attachment to the royals. We join the celebrations with a special look back at the history of two British institutions: The Big Issue and the royal family …

December 1997

Princes Charles in London Office
Doesn't one know you?

The Big Issue was given the royal seal of approval in 1997 when Prince Charles visited our offices in London. While he was there he bumped into an unlikely acquaintance. Clive Harold had been a classmate of Charles at Hill House School. He later became a journalist and author before falling on hard times and selling The Big Issue. Harold joked with the prince that he remembered him from their school days over 40 years ago because they both had big ears.

November 1998

CHARLES THE SECOND

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Prince Charles came for a tour of The Big Issue's new premises on Pentonville Rd

Prince Charles came for a tour and to open our new premises in Pentonville Road, London. The plaque marking the day now adorns the wall of our Finsbury Park office in north London.

March 2001

QueenInBrightonBigIssue
We are amused

Regular Big Issue buyer and office visitor Prince Charles must have shared his love for the magazine with his family. The Queen made sure to pick up a copy when she was in Brighton the following year. She was presented with it by Ivan Vetson, who the previous night had slept in “a shed made out of bins”.

March 2005

CharlesinAusembed
Down Under

He’s back. Charles must have been delighted to spot a reminder of home while on the other side of the world. Visiting Melbourne’s Federation Square, Charles came across Paul, who was selling the Australian edition of The Big Issue. Our sister paper started up down under in 1996.

December 2010

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Prince William on the cover of The Big Issue

Just a few months before his wedding, Prince William wrote an exclusive article about how homelessness is a subject close to his heart. In it he said: “Charities, churches, governments and other bodies can all help with the basics – a roof under which to shelter from the elements, heating and security – but without hope, an individual cannot rebuild a life.

”And for there to be people with no hope living right alongside us is surely a blight on our societies. That is why the work of the restorers of hope – street papers such as The Big Issue, my own charity Centrepoint and other organisations and individuals who care so inspire me. They give homeless people the tools with which to rebuild their confidence and, ultimately, their lives.”

December 2015

ANOTHER WILLIAM EXCLUSIVE

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Sophia Kichou, previously homeless, interviews Prince William with Centrepoint

Sophia Kichou became homeless at the age of 18, sleeping in a hostel before getting support from Centrepoint. There she met Prince William and told him about her dream of becoming a journalist and the prince agreed to an interview with her. William joked about the “interrogation”, hoping Sophia wouldn’t “Paxman” him. She had a more subtle technique, leading him to talk about life as a young father, the time he slept rough with Centrepoint and how he wants to end youth homelessness. Since the interview, Sophia has continued her journalism studies and served as an intern at Westminster.

June 2016

CORNISH TEA

SocialBiteCamilla

Back in 2016 the Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit to Social Bite, a social enterprise cafe in Edinburgh that employs and trains homeless people. Camilla chatted to George Whyte, a Big Issue vendor in the city, over a cuppa.

November 2016

When the story of Big Issue seller-turned bestselling author James Bowen made it to the big screen, the Duchess of Cambridge was first in line to see the film at its world premiere. Bob even let the duchess stroke him.

streetcatbobredcarpet
Red carpet treatment

February 2018

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT

A new, but vaguely familiar, Big Issue vendor appeared on the streets earlier this year. This mural by graffiti artist Loretto shows the Queen with that familiar feline, Street Cat Bob, selling magazines in Fitzrovia, central London.

Queen Big Issue Loretto
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The Queen is joined by Big Issue favourite Street Cat Bob Credit: Imogen Williams

February 2018

SOCIAL BITE

Regular royal spotter and Big Issue vendor George Whyte received another regal audience earlier this year. When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Edinburgh in February, they dropped in on Social Bite. George, 62, whose pitch is nearby, was invited along to meet the couple.

Harry-Meghan-Social-Bite
Harry and Meghan visited Social Bite in Edinburgh to meet staff

“It was great, Meghan was very down-to-earth and talkative,” he said afterwards. “She was sat directly opposite me and said it was her first time in Scotland, but she looked the part in her tartan coat. She had a black coffee. They asked me about what I do, and were interested to find out more about my experience of homelessness. It was a great atmosphere.”

The Big Issue Shop has got just the thing to get that street party into full swing with the exclusive Royal Wedding Collection.

Offering a fresh perspective on the regal festivities, we tasked contributors to our Street Art pages who have experiences of homelessness to provide their own arty tribute to the happy couple.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

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