The Archbishop of York recalled laughing with the Queen over a “fiendishly difficult” jigsaw they attempted together at Sandringham.

The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, who is from Leigh and went to Belfairs Academy, has said the monarch had been “very good at putting people at their ease” following the announcement of her death yesterday evening.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “When I stayed with her at Sandringham on the Sunday evening when all the other guests had gone home – and the bishop always traditionally stays on, we sat and did a jigsaw and watched the telly and talked very ordinarily about stuff.”

The puzzle was “fiendishly difficult”, he said, remarking: “I’ve never attempted one like it.”

He added: “When the evening came to a close and she said to me, ‘well, I’m going to put the dogs out now, will you still be here when I get back, bishop?’, I said to her, ‘well, it depends how long you’re going to be’.”

He said Queen Elizabeth II remarked she would be around 10 minutes, to which he replied: “‘Well, if when you get back, I’m not here, I’ve gone to bed.

“‘If the jigsaw isn’t here, it’s because I’ve thrown it into the fire because I’ve never, ever attempted such a difficult one’. And we laughed.”