News

Big Issue vendor Will Herbert: ‘The day I saw the Queen made me proud to be British’

London seller Will Herbert attended the opening of parliament in 2017 to see the Queen’s Speech in person as a guest of Big Issue founder Lord Bird

Will Herbert and John Bird

Big Issue vendor Will Herbert said the moment he watched Queen Elizabeth deliver the Queen’s Speech from Parliament’s royal gallery made him “proud to be British” as he paid tribute to the late monarch.

The 62-year-old vendor, who sells the magazine at Budgens in Islington, north London, was invited to the opening of parliament in June 2017 as a guest of Big Issue founder and crossbench peer Lord John Bird.

Herbert said seeing the Queen in person had a profound influence on him as he recalled the experience following the royal’s death on Thursday.

“Watching her deliver her speech, she made me feel so proud to be British,” said Herbert, who has been selling the Big Issue magazine since it launched in 1991.

“She will be locked away in my heart now that she is gone. I feel so sad but, on a nice note, 96 years is a long innings. Buckingham Palace will never look the same without her.”

Herbert rubbed shoulders with then-prime minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a House of Commons packed with politicians and dignitaries back in 2017.

His visit graced the cover of the Big Issue complete with a shot of him sitting on the roof the Houses of Parliament in his suit.

At the time he said seeing the Queen was “like a fairy story” following his history of homelessness and his battle with addiction.

“I feel amazing. I feel like a movie star. I feel a million dollars! I have come a long way,” Herbert told the Big Issue on the day. “I never thought I’d be here. To be honest, this is a dream. How many people in the world get to see the Queen? It’s just fantastic. Me seeing the Queen is like a fairy story.”

He added: “It was so good to be in the same room as the Queen. Bless her, she looked the picture I always knew her to be. She was smaller than I thought though. So was Prince Charles. I was about 10 feet away. I felt like royalty. I felt like one of the Lords myself.”

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

Recommended for you

View all
Why the general election could and should be fought on the frontier of poverty
Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner on the first day of the general election campaign
General election 2024

Why the general election could and should be fought on the frontier of poverty

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'
Homelessness

Beat the Streets music festival funds new homes for rough sleepers: 'If we could do more, we would'

'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead
Conservation

'Nature is slowly healing': How rewilding is bringing Britain's extinct species back from the dead

From the NHS to levelling up: Here are all the broken promises after 14 years of Tory rule
General Election 2024

From the NHS to levelling up: Here are all the broken promises after 14 years of Tory rule

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know