The whole world knows Freddie Mercury as a bright and self-confident artist. However, there is only one woman who knew him when the surname Mercury was still unknown. She was also the one who stayed by his side when his illness defeated him. Mary Austin was Freddie Mercury’s common-law wife and his only friend.
5 Fun Facts is a fan of the band Queen and of Freddie Mercury’s music. We’re also suckers for a good romantic story. So today we’re dedicating our article to the love story and deep friendship between a simple girl and a world famous musician.
Mary Austin and Freddie Mercury met each other thanks to their love for beautiful clothing. Mary was working at a London clothing store called Biba, while Freddie was selling vintage clothing at Kensington Market together with his friend Roger Taylor (Queen’s drummer). At that time, the name Freddie Mercury didn’t mean anything to most people and there was one more year left until Queen even made a blip on the radar.
Mary Austin was born into a family of deaf and mute people and communicated with her parents with the help of sign language. In other ways, this family wasn’t much different from any other family. Her father was a plasterer and her mother was a maid. This small and fragile girl attracted the future rock idol’s attention instantly. However, Mary herself was a little shocked because Freddie was always wearing bright and shocking clothing and this time was no exception. She saw a 24-year-old long-haired badass in a shocking outfit, which of course, made her feel a little insecure and embarrassed.
Mary remembers that they were as poor as church mice during those times and their romance was similar to the relationship of thousands of other couples. They would listen to music and take long walks, but they couldn’t afford much else. It was pretty difficult for musicians who were trying to break into the music scene in London in the 1970s because there were thousands of other musicians like them.
The way to fame
Queen in 1974
After a couple of months of dating, the young couple started living together in a tiny apartment. Soon after that, Queen, the legendary band that would soon conquer the whole world, appeared. However, at that moment no one was aware of this, so the couple led a relatively simple life. Freddie wrote songs, while Mary supported him.
Queen released their first album in 1973. It was then that their life started to change and shortly they were able to afford an apartment in a very prestigious district of London. That’s when Freddie Mercury wrote the ballad Love of My Life, dedicated it to Mary, and proposed to her. The proposal was done with the sense of humor that Mercury has always had.
Then, when I was 23, he gave me a big box on Christmas Day. Inside was another box, then another, and so it went on. It was like one of his playful games. Eventually, I found a lovely jade ring inside the last small box.
I looked at it and was speechless. I remember thinking, I don’t understand what’s going on. It wasn’t what I’d expected at all. So I asked him, “Which hand should I put this on?” And he said, “Ring finger, left hand.” And then he said, “Because, will you marry me?” I was shocked. It just so wasn’t what I was expecting. I just whispered, “Yes. I will.”
Freddie introduced his fiancée to his mother, Jer Bulsara, who was extremely delighted with her son’s choice. She dreamed that the couple would get married and have children. However, the wedding didn’t happen. The engagement lasted for 3 years and ended up with a breakup.
After the band’s first album, they released 2 more with one year in between. Queen was becoming hugely popular, Freddie was gaining many new fans and Mary started to feel odd in Freddie’s new world.
“Sometime later,” she says. “I spotted a wonderful antique wedding dress in a small shop. And as Freddie hadn’t said anything more about marrying, the only way that I could test the water was to say, ’Is it time I bought the dress?’ But he said no. He had gone off the idea and it never happened.
I was disappointed. Things were getting very complicated and the atmosphere between us was changing a lot.”
Freddie had started to come home late and their relationship was fading. After some time he confessed to Mary about his non-traditional sexual orientation. Mary recalls that they tried to always be frank with each other and avoided arguments. Their love story ended, but the friendship and platonic love between this great rock star and this simple girl became lifelong.
After the breakup, Mercury managed to persuade Mary to not leave him and she settled into a place a couple of steps from where he lived. She was always beside him working as an assistant and accompanying him to concerts and on his tours.
“I met Mary in 1970 and we have had a warm relationship since then. I’ve never been as close to anyone else as I have to her. We’ve lived together for 7 years and I still love her. Love is something that is the hardest to reach and it can disappoint harshly like nothing else can. Mary and I have a strong bond that has grown even stronger over the years. She has gone through many things and has always stayed by my side.’
Mary Austin had her own personal life just like Freddie Mercury. Mary gave birth to 2 children but didn’t marry their father. Freddie Mercury became the godfather to Mary’s oldest son. At that time, Freddie was desperately looking for love, he was surrounded by crowds of fans but he always approached Mary when looking for warmth and support.
“All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible. The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else. To me, she was my common-law wife. To me, it was a marriage. We believe in each other. That’s enough for me. I couldn’t fall in love with a man the same way as I have with Mary.”
The illness and the end of the story
In the beginning, there were only 2 people who knew that Freddie Mercury was HIV positive — Mary Austin and Jim Hutton. When the illness had almost defeated the singer, these 2 people were always there beside him. Mary was his lifelong and faithful friend, while Jim was the last lover of the great singer.
Hutton himself lived for 20 years after being infected with HIV and died in 2010 from lung cancer.
In 1991, Mercury lost his eyesight and was almost bedridden. He stopped taking his pills and refused to fight for his life. Mary and Jim were there with him — they were reflecting on old times, watching recordings of Queen concerts, laughing, and crying together.
“Ours is a pure friendship but a friendship of the highest standard. It’s an instinctive thing. I still love her. We’ll probably grow old together.”
Inheritance and funeral
Freddie Mercury passed away on the 24th of November, 1991. Before his death, Freddie made a will where he gave the biggest part of his income (present and future) and his huge mansion, Garden Lodge in London, to Mary Austin.
“You could become my wife and you would get all this [inheritance]anyway.”
Mary Austin said that Mercury’s friends and colleagues turned their back on her once they learned that Freddie had left the biggest part of his money to her. She felt completely alone after her friend’s death and had to fight with tax authorities for a pretty long time because they were threatening to take Mercury’s mansion away.
Another important point of Mercury’s will was his funeral. The singer wanted for Mary Austin to spread his ashes and keep the place she did it a secret. Mercury was afraid that strange people would assemble at his grave and he didn’t want anyone to defile his final resting place.
Mary kept the urn with Mercury’s ashes for 2 years and then spread them. She fulfilled Freddie’s request — no one in this world knows where the ashes of the great Freddie Mercury are.
“I never betrayed Freddie in his lifetime. And I’ll never betray him now.”
Queen fans have several theories about it. The first one says that Mary took the singer’s ashes to his motherland, in Zanzibar. The second theory says that Freddie’s last resting place is in his favorite garden at his mansion, Garden Lodge. The third one appeared when his fans recently found a memorial plaque with the name Farrokh Bulsara, which is Mercury’s real name. Mary Austin hasn’t confirmed any of these theories.
Mary Austin turned 67 in 2018. She lives in Mercury’s mansion behind inaccessible walls and doesn’t communicate with journalists. Mary refused to take part in the shooting of Bohemian Rhapsody, but she read the script and approved it.
Queen’s fans don’t like Mary Austin very much. Freddie Mercury’s fans from all over the world go to London to visit his Garden Lodge mansion and leave flowers, paintings, and poems there in memory of the great musician. But Mary demanded to have all of these signs removed from the fence and the door of the estate. The walls have since been covered with plexiglass and it’s become impossible to leave memorable presents since then.
However, Freddie Mercury’s mother and his sister Kasmira have always had a warm attitude toward Mary and have always considered her a part of the Bulsara family.
Now you know a little more about Freddie and Mary’s relationship. Have you already watched Bohemian Rhapsody? We would love to read your opinion about it in the comments!
Preview photo credit Dave Hogan / Hulton Archive / Getty Images