Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond said Prince Philip was a "complex" and "often misunderstood" character.
The Duke of Edinburgh "could be blunt and rude and politically very, very incorrect, we all know that", she said.
"Occasionally he came out with a real clanger, but mostly he was just trying to be pleasant and light-hearted," she added in a BBC Radio Devon interview.
Ms Bond said the duke, who died on 9 April, often had a "twinkle" in his eyes which she "enjoyed".
The duke's "very complex character" was "created perhaps by a very difficult upbringing", said Ms Bond, who lives in south Devon.
"He said himself once, 'My grandfather was assassinated, my father was sent into exile, my mother went to a sanatorium and my sister was killed in a plane crash - what do you expect me to have turned out like?'
"And perhaps what we perceived as over-confidence was actually the opposite.
"Sometimes it works that way."
Ms Bond, a BBC royal correspondent for 14 years, said the duke "was never very keen on journalists" who he felt did not understand his "sense of fun".
But at one of their meetings she complimented him on his healthy looks.
"He said, 'You're not looking so bad yourself.'
"I enjoyed the twinkle in his eyes."
The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex have paid tribute to their grandfather in separate statements.
Prince William has described the duke as an "extraordinary man", while Prince Harry said he was "a man of service, honour and great humour" and the "legend of banter".
Ms Bond said: "Harry said he charmed everyone in the room.
"And I like the fact that his children have been speaking so personally, which isn't something you often get from the Royal Family."
The duke was someone who they could approach with any difficulties, she said.
"Most people think of him as this kind of action man - tough, impatient, blunt, but he could be a very thoughtful, calm and kind parent when required."