'Last one left': Kiwi friend of the royals Clare Delore says 'very, very difficult' time ahead for Queen Elizabeth II

A Kiwi woman who personally knew Prince Philip says the Queen will be grieving deeply at the loss of her husband, particularly his willingness to speak bluntly.

The Duke of Edinburgh died on Friday night, aged 99.

Clare Delore, former journalist and wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Don McKinnon, told Newshub Nation he was "a man of his time, but he moved with the times to an extent".

"Primarily I will remember him as the terrific support he was to Her Majesty, the Queen. It's a very, very sad and lonely day for her - she's now lost her mother, her sister and she's the last one left of her generation, really. She has a very close cousin - Princess Alexandra - but I think she's going to feel this so deeply.

"I think she's become quite used to it, but it's very, very difficult in the case of losing her spouse - the man who stood by her side and a little bit behind her for nearly all of their married lives together. It's a huge blow to her. 

"However he is officially commemorated, there will be high sensitivity to the fact she's in her mid-90s and it's been a very difficult time all-round for the royal family."

Lady McKinnon knew the Duke, having attended numerous functions where he was present. 

"He was the kind of guy who could make or break somebody's day - he spoke his mind. There are famous stories about him saying things people took a little bit of exception to, but there are also episodes where he showed incredible kindness and sensitivity towards people. 

"I remember once telling him at a lunch where we were seated together that my handbag had just been stolen. He asked whereabouts and I said, 'You won't know it, it's a Sainsbury's supermarket.' He said, 'Tell me which one! I will know it.' And he did know it. He was very sympathetic."

Clare Delore/Lady McKinnon.
Clare Delore/Lady McKinnon. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

She told another story about his legendary frankness. This one took place at a lunch she and Sir Don were for the Queen's 80th birthday - the royal couple requested no one sing 'Happy Birthday' because between them, they'd already heard it 100 times. 

"Yet somebody thought the hosts Don and I were not doing our duty obviously, and they spontaneously started a round of 'Happy Birthday'. He just looked at me and said, 'Bloody hell, we're sick of this.' 

"He really just spoke his mind - sometimes that was at a cost, but it was also quite refreshing. It would have been an extraordinarily difficult thing for the Queen to have had somebody who didn't add colour to her life and tell her sometimes exactly what he thought." 

A National Remembrance Service for Prince Philip will be held in Wellington after the funeral, the date of which is yet to be determined. It's expected to be a muted affair by royal standards, at the Prince's request.