Pope Francis gave the Queen a present for her great-grandson Prince George today as she apologised for a delay in meeting him at the Vatican.

A smiling Queen arrived around 20 minutes later than expected after a private lunch at the Quirinal Palace in Rome with Italy's president Giorgio Napolitano.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, shook hands with the leader of the Catholic Church and said: "Sorry to keep you waiting, we were having lunch with the president", before heading into a private meeting with the pontiff.

The private conversation between the royal couple and the Pope lasted around 17 minutes and was followed by a formal exchange of gifts.

The Pope presented a lapis lazuli orb to the royal couple, decorated with a silver cross of Edward the Confessor, the 11th Century English King who was made a saint, as a gift for eight-month-old Prince George with the inscription on the base "Pope Francis, to His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge".

Shown the gift, the Queen responded: "He will be thrilled with that" before adding after a split second's pause: "when he's a little older!"

The royal couple were also presented with a reproduction of a decree by Pope Innocent XI issued in 1679 which elevated Edward the Confessor into a saint for the Catholic Church.

A separate gift was presented to the Duke of Edinburgh of three papal medals in gold, silver and bronze.

He joked: "It's the only gold medal I have ever won."