Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II met with Pope Francis for the first time this afternoon during a one-day visit to Rome.

The meeting was the 87-year-old's first foreign trip in three years.

During the visit, Pope Francis gave the queen a royal orb in lapis lazuli with a silver cross for baby Prince George.

The pope presented the British monarch with the blue sphere topped with a cross for Prince William and his wife Catherine's eight-month old baby.

The queen presented Pope Francis with a hamper of British produce including goods grown in the gardens of royal palaces and whiskey.

Earlier the queen, who is accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, was hosted for lunch by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

The queen was not be veiled and did not wear black as in previous Vatican encounters.

The event is seen as another stepping stone in improving relations between the Holy See and the British monarchy.

This year marks the centenary of diplomatic links being re-established following the centuries of indifference, if not hostility, brought about by Henry VIII’s dramatic break with Rome in the 16th century.

Queen Elizabeth has visited the Vatican twice before, first in 1961 when she met Pope John XXIII, and again in 2000 when she met John Paul II.