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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.”

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