Most Fascinating Person: Camilla Parker Bowles

ByABC News
November 29, 2005, 1:45 PM

Nov. 29, 2005 — -- This year's "Most Fascinating Person" did not change the world as we know it. She did not cure a disease or win the Nobel Peace Prize. What she did was love someone with no demands, no deadline -- that is to say, unconditionally. She is the new Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles.

It was a sight that no one thought they would, or could, ever see.

She is warm, down-to-earth, unassuming and not what many would assume would fascinate a future king. And yet for 35 years, Prince Charles has been fascinated by her.

They met when she was a free-spirited 23-year-old. It should have been simple. They loved each other. But there were obstacles -- she was a commoner.

Some thought she wasn't "suitable," and the prince didn't seem to know what he wanted.

He might be the future king, but Camilla's problem was all too common -- she was in love with a guy who wouldn't commit.

Charles went off to serve in the Navy, and she, perhaps tired of waiting, married Andrew Parker Bowles and had two children.

Charles dated -- a lot -- but he always came back to Camilla. She held a fascination for him.

But when it was time for him to marry, he chose virginal 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer -- with Camilla's blessing.

It was a fairy-tale wedding, but one with a curse on it. Charles is said to have resented the attention Diana received. Diana was said to have resented Camilla. The marriage failed -- famously -- with tantrums, sex scandals, confessions, divorces and finally, sadly, death.

The public hated Camilla, but that didn't change how the prince felt.

Their relationship was an open secret. They met in country homes of the gentry. She lived next to him but in the shadows, attending the same events, but they were never seen together.

And slowly he wooed the public on her behalf. Their first appearance together; their first public kiss; his children's approval; his mother's approval; and bit by bit, the public's approval.

And finally, three decades after they met, they announced their engagement.

This April, 56-year-old Charles and 57-year-old Camilla married.

If the idea that love can endure over time and that loyalty and faith matter more than appearances is the stuff of fairy tales, then this too, was a fairy-tale wedding.

Camilla's triumph may not be about taking on the world, but taking on one man. It is a triumph of patience and understanding that is seldom rewarded. So we're going to do that by choosing her as the most fascinating person of 2005.