Ed Sheeran has revealed why Queen Elizabeth looked thrilled to meet him in the early stages of her career despite having no idea who he was.

The pop star was pictured meeting the late monarch for the first time around 10 years ago when he was just starting to break into the music industry and she was seen grinning widely as she shook his hand - and Ed has now revealed she was only smiling because a comedian standing nearby had cracked a well-timed joke.

During an appearance on 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert', Ed was asked about the snap and he explained: "This is a fun picture because she was smiling when she met me. That was really, really early stages of my career. I had released, like, one hit single, and I was playing her [Diamond] Jubilee.

"But I was next to a really famous comedian who like cracked a joke while she was shaking my hand. So I've got this picture of her delighted to see me."

Ed insisted when he was introduced to the Queen, she barely reacted, but then she heard the joke and her face lit up and he adde: "And that's the picture."

He went on to say it was a poignant moment for him because seeing Eric Clapton playing at Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee concert in 2002 inspired him to get into music.

Ed added: "That [meeting] was good because basically the day that I picked up the guitar was the Golden Jubilee was on television. It was in 2002, I was 11 years old and I didn't play the guitar at that time. I was watching this thing on television. Eric Clapton comes on and does the first opening bit of 'Layla'. I'm like, what is that? And he finishes the song and I knew in that instant, I was like, I want to be that. I want to have a guitar and I want to sing on stage."

He concluded: "And 10 years later, I'm playing the same thing [the Jubilee concert] and I just played the one 10 years on from that as well."

Ed performed at both Queen Elizabeth's Diamond and Platinum Jubilee celebrations.