British television presenter Clare Balding, whose fame escalated following her role as BBC host during the Olympics, has been named the UK's most fascinating person, beating royalty and politicians in a Tatler magazine list.

The gay 42-year-old who now presents a weekly TV show, topped the list which is based on a tally of website hits, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported.

The daughter of a horse trainer, former amateur jockey Balding spurred further public interest with her top-selling autobiography, My Animals and Other Family, released in 2012.

Blonde, blue-eyed Balding thought about losing weight for her TV role at the Olympics then decided against it - winning supporters for her stance.

Unofficially labelled "Britain's newest national treasure" by some media outlets, Balding has also drawn criticism from some quarters for her promotion of horse racing.

"She stands on the turf at Aintree or Goodwood in her cheap hat and shoes, wielding her microphone, and she does not criticise the use of the whip by jockeys, or collapse in tears and rage when yet another horse has broken its neck," wrote contentious Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones.

The Tatler list sees Balding outdo the Queen in fourth place, while Pippa Middleton came in second, with Russian businessman and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich rounding out the top three.

Prince Harry was in sixth place and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson in 20th place.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge managed seventh place in the fascination stakes and her husband Prince William was 16th.

Balding's partner, former BBC radio newsreader Alice Arnold, ranked 14th on the list.

Just before Christmas last year, Balding talked about how she would like to marry Arnold, as "the `civilly partnered' phrase is a bit unwieldy".

Since Arnold left her radio job earlier this month she has publicly expressed her support for "equal marriage" which she said she couldn't do while she worked for the BBC.

 

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