The Princess of Wales turned guest presenter as she opened the BBC's annual Children in Need television appeal tonight.

Kate, 41, was the surprise opening act of the annual charity fundraiser in a video message.

The live BBC appeal show – which raises money to improve the lives of disadvantaged children and young people around the UK – saw Mel Giedroyc return to host alongside Ade Adepitan, Jason Manford, Chris Ramsey, Alex Scott and new edition Lenny Rush.

Kicking off the show on Friday evening with a special message, Kate said: “Hello everyone. I’m delighted that Children In Need have invited me to open this evening’s show.

“Tonight is all about helping to support, champion and empower all children to be the very best they can be, which is crucial for their future health and happiness.

“Our relationships, surroundings and experiences during the earliest years lay the foundations that shape the rest of our lives.

“Yet, sadly, we know that for too many people, stressful and traumatic situations in early childhood can cause harm and it can take many years to overcome.”

Kate said nurturing every childhood is “vital” when describing why projects supported by Children In Need “are so important”.

“They help the very youngest, most vulnerable members of our society feel safe, secure and loved in these important, formative years, so that they can enjoy their childhoods now, and grow to reach their potential and thrive in the world in later life,” she said.

Kate also wished the “best of luck” to those taking part in challenges in aid of Children In Need.

Children in Need tonight

The highlight from this year's Children in Need is BBC Radio 2 presenter Vernon Kay. Kay completed an ultra-marathon for Children in Need, having raised £4.1m for the charity.

The DJ ran from Leicester to Bolton - a distance of 116 miles - over four days.

Speaking to Radio 2 breakfast host Zoe Ball as he reached the finish line, Kay described it as "one of the most painful and joyous experiences I've ever had".

BBC Children in Need's televised appeal is being broadcast on BBC One.