Comedian Ben Elton was accused of poor taste last night after making a remark about Prince Edward’s sexuality and calling the Queen “a sad old lady”.

He appeared on Australian television show Good News Week to promote his new book. He brought up the subject in a word association game.

The audience was reportedly startled to hear him describe the Queen as “a sad little old lady who lives in state-sponsored accommodation. Her husband is a mad old bigot who wishes it was still the war.”

Elton added: “Three out of four of her kids’ marriages have failed – that’s very common. The eldest one is a disillusioned ­ex-hippy, the middle one a bit of a yob, the youngest lad [Prince Edward] we used to think took it from behind.”

He continued: “That’s a bog-standard British family in all its rainbow glory. If she had a black one and a disabled one she’d have the full deck.”

Prince Edward has been the target of rumours about his sexual orientation for years, although these have died down since his 1999 marriage to Sophie Rhys Jones.

Elton also joked that he had slept with former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, during repeated references to his latest work.

At one point, the show’s host said: “There’s his f**king book again.”

Elton has since apologised for the remarks.

According to the Daily Mail, his spokesman said: “Ben Elton apologises for any offence which may have been caused. The quotes attributed to him have been taken entirely out of context.

“He was making a joke about Australian republicanism, pointing out on a comedy show that the Queen and her family were far more reflective of the modern rainbow population they represented than any other.”