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'Diana used to give me a beautiful smile': The real story of The Big Issue vendor and Princess Diana

"I used to think, does she fancy me?" Forget The Crown, this is the real story of Princess Diana and the Big Issue vendor

Big Issue vendor Frank McGucken in a Santa hat

Frank McGucken. Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The Crown may have invented a story of Princess Diana taking her son William to sell The Big Issue for its latest series. But if you want the real story of Diana and The Big Issue, our vendor Frank McGucken has the lowdown.

“Lady Diana used to come to me, privately, on her own, and buy the paper,” Frank told us late last year.

“I used to see her on a regular basis in Beauchamp Place when she was on her way to the gym in Chelsea Harbour. She had it all, but she had respect for homeless people.”

McGucken was one of our first Big Issue vendors, and has sold the magazine on and off for many years. And he recalled Diana’s visits with pride.

“She used to give me a beautiful smile,” he continued.

“I hope people don’t get offended by this, but I used to think: ‘Does she fancy me?’ because she had that glamorous smile!”

Frank’s current pitch is outside Tiffany’s on Sloane Square – perhaps the most famous and most exclusive jewellery shop in the world. He counts billionaires, celebrities and Royals among his customers through the years.

Frank McGucken with his celebrity customers
Frank McGucken with Eddie Redmayne, Frankie Dettori, James Corden, Prince Naseem, Olly Murs, Peter Crouch. Photos: Frank McGucken

“Harry Hill used to be quite a regular, I used to see Michael Caine quite a lot,” Frank told us. He reeled off the names – from boxer Prince Naseem to Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne, jockey Frankie Dettori, and ex-James Bond star Pierce Brosnan and former footballer Peter Crouch.

“I saw Diana Ross around there too and that is where I met Jack Nicholson on the street. He had a cheeky smile, just like me. He said, ‘What the hell is The Big Issue?'”

Frank remains hugely popular with his customers – famous or otherwise.

“They buy the magazine and I have a conversation with them like a normal person,” he said. “They value what I am doing, just like Prince William values The Big Issue. He had a go at selling it himself. William knows how hard it is – and him and Kate value homeless people.”

From sleeping on the Strand to selling the magazine to celebs outside Tiffany’s and rescuing his mother-in-law from Ukraine, Big Issue vendor Frank McGucken has got quite the story. Read it in full here

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