Mary Austin had gone years without being in the spotlight and that was very much her preference. She shared a profound and intimate connection with Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the British rock band Queen. Until his death, she was his closest friend and a form of refuge for the rock star.
The connection shared by both is one that is all too rare and uncommon. It transcended romance and even sexual feelings. Their feelings for each other had a life of its own and both Austin and Mercury deeply appreciated it. Thus, his death affected her greatly, and she withdrew from the limelight as a result.
However, with the release of the 2018 biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, the spotlight was once more focused on her. People began to wonder what became of the woman who played a massive part in the life of the music icon was.
Austin Met Freddie Mercury Through A Mutual Friend
Shortly after Austin climbed the social ladder, she began attending parties and concerts. It was at one of those concerts she ran into Brian May, a friendly acquaintance who worked nearby. They both had a great time, and a relationship developed from that meeting.
Although the relationship was fun for both, there was no serious commitment, and it was not surprising when they broke up on friendly terms. May was a budding musician in the process of forming a music band with some friends.
Amongst these friends was Freddie Mercury, who had recently just returned to England. May introduced Austin to the band members, and Mercury, seeing her, was instantly smitten. He began frequenting her place of work and six months later, he finally asked Mary out on a date. Although she was surprised by the request, she accepted after a brief hesitation. Mercury had just finished art college and owned a cloth stall with fellow Queen member Roger Taylor at Kensington Market. It was near the market place that Austin and Mercury shared a small flat after moving in together in 1973.
Mercury Proposed Marriage In 1973 But The Couple Never Went Through With It
After Queen began recording huge success, the couple was able to move into a bigger flat along London’s Holland Road. In 1973, shortly after the band released their eponymous debut album, Mercury asked Austin to marry him.
She was 23 at the time, and on Christmas Day, he gave her a big box. Inside was a smaller box and inside that, another smaller box. It went on like that until she saw a jade ring inside the last box. After she inquired which hand to place the ring, Mercury mentioned her left hand and then proceeded to ask her to marry him.
It came as a shock to her as she had not been expecting such a proposal. She was so surprised she could only whisper her answer as she told Mercury yes. The marriage never materialized though, as Queen became bigger and they began to drift apart. That was when Mercury realized his attraction to men and began carrying out illicit affairs.
Austin Broke Up With Mercury After He Revealed His Sexuality To Her
When the couple began dating, Mercury was cash-strapped. It was a new band and money was not yet rolling in. This left Austin with the task of taking care of the bills, including rent and outings. Soon, the band began to get some gigs, and they were able to move to a bigger apartment.
As the band continued to grow, Mary Austin began to suspect a celebrity life awaited Mercury. It made her feel a bit insecure and inspired her to suggest bringing an end to the relationship. Mercury, however, convinced her to stay because they were compatible and meant to be.
Austin’s fear began to manifest as she and Mercury began to drift apart. The more the band grew, the farther apart they became. Austin suspected infidelity on the part of Mercury and this was confirmed when he confessed to it himself in 1980.
What she, however, was not expecting was the revelation that he had been having affairs with people of his own gender. The revelation came as a shock to Austin and she decided to break up with him to allow him to explore his sexuality.
Although the break up was painful for her, she was neither angry nor bitter. Mercury bought a flat for her close to where they lived, and the two remained friends.
Their Relationship Evolved into Something More Platonic and They Became Inseparable
Despite breaking up as romantic partners, Mary Austin and Freddie Mercury remained good friends. In fact, she was his best friend. The band had a publishing business and Mercury hired her to become the secretary. She often toured with the band and travelled to many locations.
She also became his trusted confidant and advisor. They both looked out for each other with great care and affection. Mercury once expressed that Austin was his only friend in the world and the one person he trusted more than any other.
He had so much love for her that he even dedicated some songs to her, including ‘Love of my life’. He described her as his ‘common-law wife’, and their friendship was a marriage in his opinion. Many of Mercury’s subsequent lovers could never really measure up. Mary Austin was his best friend, and that was never going to change. It would remain like this until his death.
She Was The First Person He Told Of His HIV Diagnosis
By the late-70s to mid-80s, Queen had become a global phenomenon. The band was recognizable worldwide and Mercury automatically became a superstar. Mary Austin remained an important part of both his personal and professional life.
In 1987, she received devastating news. Freddie Mercury confided in her that he had tested positive for HIV. The news left her heartbroken and shattered.
She, along with Mercury’s then-partner Jim Hutton, was the first to be told of his condition. She and Jim stuck by him during this trying times and took care of him. As his health deteriorated, Austin maintained a constant presence.
In 1991, Mercury became blind and could not leave his bed. He stopped taking his drugs and resigned to fate. Austin remained with him. They would reminisce about old times and listen to Queen records.
Mercury Left Her His Estate Because She Gave As Much Love To Him As He Gave Her
After Freddie Mercury succumbed to pneumonia as a result of AIDS in 1991, a lot of people were curious about who would inherit his estate and other assets. Despite being aware of the extremely close bond he shared with Mary Austin, it still came as a shock when it was announced that his estate, including his mansion, had been left to her.
When his autobiography, Freddie Mercury: A Life in His Own Words, was released, it explained the thought process behind the decision. It also revealed that it was something he was hell-bent on going through with.
According to Mercury, Austin was the only person who gave him back as much love as he gave her. He labelled her the love of his life and was grateful to have had her in his life. He was always very interested in ensuring she was financially secured, having shown so much loyalty and faithfulness to him. Freddy went on to declare that if he died first, he was going to will everything to her. A promise he followed through to the consternation of fans and friends.
Mercury Did Warn Austin That Inheriting His Estate Would Come with A Lot Of Pressure
When Mercury first informed Mary Austin that he would be leaving his estate to her, she was at first reticent to the idea. After she learnt that she would be inheriting his West Kensington mansion plus 50% of all his future earnings from Queen, she was understandably bowled over.
Mercury had this conversation with her days before he died. She suggested he kept his house as a sort of visitation site for fans, but he insisted he wanted her to inherit it.
But he also did well to issue a warning regarding the burden that would come with inheriting all that. He turned out to be right as Austin struggled to cope with the death of her lifelong friend. She felt he had left her with too much to handle and was struggling to keep up.
Austin also faced ridicule and jealousy from his bandmates and fans. She felt they could not believe he had left so much to her, and it reflected in how they behaved towards her. She also felt fans made disrespectful comments about her just being a keeper of the mansion. All these made her feel hurt but having received the warning from Mercury; she felt better equipped to deal with it all.
Mary Austin Had Two Kids And Married A Businessman In 1998 But Not For Long
When Mary separated from Freddie Mercury and became just his friend, she started a new life for herself. Away from Mercury and the band, she began to meet other people and mingle. She met painter Piers Cameron and had two sons with him.
Their first son, Richard, was Freddie Mercury’s godson while the second son, Jamie, was born shortly after Mercury passed away. Austin chose not to get married to Piers Cameron though, and they soon separated. She met businessman Nick Holford in 1997, and they got married in 1998. The marriage lasted for five years before it ended in divorce in 2003.
Austin has remained unmarried since then. According to her, she lost her family when Mercury died as he was everything to her. For Mary Austin, Freddy remains the most important person in her life asides her sons.
Having moved into the mansion she inherited from Mercury, Austin continues to reside there, living a quiet life. She stays away from the spotlight, having lived in front of it for most of Mercury’s life.
She Started A Foundation Along With Some Of His Bandmates And Manager
Shortly before Mercury died, he made a statement urging people around the world to join hands to combat the terrible disease known as AIDS. His manager, Jim Beach, fellow band members, Roger Taylor and Brian May, along with lifelong friend Mary Austin came together in 1992 to form the Mercury Phoenix Trust in his honour.
The goal of the trust is to fund urgent HIV/AIDs initiatives globally with special attention paid to developing countries. Mercury Phoenix Trust has helped raise over $15 million in the fight to end the HIV/AIDs epidemic globally. The trust has also helped reduce HIV/AIDS-related deaths by 55% since 2004.