New Zealand charity queen Dame Rosie Horton has had a brush with real-life royalty in London, catching up with the Queen in a surprise meeting organised by Sir Don McKinnon.

The philanthropist met Queen Elizabeth II at a cocktail party marking Commonwealth Day 2016 held at Marlborough House.

She was invited as a New Zealand representative for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Trust. Dame Rosie said the Queen was a "beautiful person" who displayed a "zest for living".

"I realised that when I met her it may be the last time as she is not travelling large distances now and in a few weeks [April 21] will celebrate her 90th birthday."

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Dame Rosie said her majesty seemed to appreciate her work.

"She was interested to know I was part of a fundraising team to raise money for her Diamond Jubilee Trust. Her face lit up when she heard we were from New Zealand. I believe she had a soft spot for our country."

The trust is a charitable foundation established in 2012 to mark her majesty's 60-year contribution to the Commonwealth. It funds projects likely to have a lasting benefit for people in countries where it invests.

The London cocktail party was hosted by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, and had a number of other guests from Commonwealth nations.

"A lot of the representatives of the Commonwealth were in national dress so it was very beautiful and colourful."