Meghan Markle has made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards, taking the stage to deliver a speech about women's empowerment.

The pregnant Duchess of Sussex was introduced by actress Rosamund Pike, and presented the prestigious British Womenswear Designer of the Year award to her wedding dress designer, Claire Waight Keller, of Givenchy.

Meghan, 37, looked stunning in a fitted black one-shoulder velvet gown by Givenchy, with her hair pulled back in a sleek bun.

"It's so nice to see so many familiar faces," she told the crowd.

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Meghan cradled her bump during the designer's speech. Photo / Getty Images
Meghan cradled her bump during the designer's speech. Photo / Getty Images

"As all of you in this room know, we have a deep connection to what we wear. Sometimes it's very personal, sometimes it's emotional. But for me this connection is rooted in, really, being able to understand that it's about supporting and empowering each other, especially as women."

Waight Keller, 44, thanked the Duchess personally in her acceptance speech, describing her as "amazing".

Meghan presents the award for British Designer of the Year Womenswear Award to Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. Photo / Getty Images
Meghan presents the award for British Designer of the Year Womenswear Award to Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. Photo / Getty Images

"This woman is so amazing. I got to know Meghan on such a personal level. To have someone like that trust you on such a personal moment in their life … I can't thank you enough because it was the most beautiful moment."

The designer created the silk boat-necked gown and long billowing veil Meghan wore to marry Prince Harry within St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in May.

Meghan cradled her bump during the designer's speech. Photo / Getty Images
Meghan cradled her bump during the designer's speech. Photo / Getty Images

Meghan's surprise appearance comes amid reports of simmering tensions within Kensington Palace, with the former actress and her husband believed to be at odds with Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Despite the rumours, Meghan and Prince Harry will join the rest of the family — including Prince William and Kate — at the Queen's estate in Sandringham for Christmas.