Freddie Mercury's 'greatest love' Mary Austin is the ONLY person who knows where the rock legend's ashes are
Long after Mercury' revealed his sexuality and the couple's relationship ended, Austin remained good friends with the singer and 'the most important person in the band's entourage'
It's a widely known fact that Freddie Mercury, the legendary frontman of Queen, was homosexual. However, his love for Mary Austin, which transcended all physical aspects, isn't talked about much. In the backdrop of Mercury's iconic biopic 'Bohemian Rhapsody', we explore how Austin could never be replaced by anyone who grew intimate with the megastar.
"All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible," Mercury once said of Austin. "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."
Mercury, born in 1946 as Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar, Tanzania, moved to England with his parents in the 1960s. Austin, on the other hand, was born in 1951 into a poor family in South London’s Battersea neighborhood. The pair met in 1969, a year before Mercury would go on to form one of the greatest bands of all time with bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor and, eventually, John Deacon.
Austin first met Mercury when she was working at the fashionable London clothing store Biba, where female employees were famous for their beauty. At the time, Mercury had just completed art college and was working in a clothing stall in Kensington.
His larger-than-life persona initially intimidated Austin, but they soon moved in together in a small apartment as the singer worked on his music career. Speaking to OK! Magazine in 2000, Austin said: "He was very confident, and I have never been confident. We grew together. I liked him – and it went on from there."
In 1973, Queen's eponymous debut album was released, but it was also the year Mercury asked the love of his life to marry him. In a conversation with Daily Mail in 2013, Austin said: "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." Mercury asked her to place the ring on her left hand and marry him. Austin, who was markedly shocked, said yes.
Queen's profile grew exponentially in the following years, with the release of albums 'Sheer Heart Attack' (1974) and 'A Night at the Opera' (1975). Mercury's toothy grin, flamboyant costumes, his trendsetting mane of hair, and his four-octave vocal reach set thousands of hearts racing and sold out every show. 'Love of My Life', a ballad that featured in the band's 1975 album, was reportedly written for Austin, his soulmate.
However, six years into the couple's relationship, the fire was fading. Austin began to think something was wrong after their marriage wasn't in the discussion and so she decided to confront Mercury. Speaking to OK! Magazine, Austin recounted the conversation she had with him. "I told him, 'Something is going on and I just feel like a noose around your neck. I think it’s time for me to go'."
While the band was experiencing greater pinnacles of success every day, Mercury would return home later than usual. Austin began to think he was having an affair with other women. Nonetheless, the already-international star decided to open up about his sexual feelings to his partner in 1976.
In the conversation with Daily Mail, Austin said: "I’ll never forget that moment. Being a bit naive, it had taken me a while to realize the truth. Afterwards, he felt good about having finally told me he was bisexual. Although I do remember saying to him at the time, 'No Freddie, I don’t think you are bisexual. I think you are gay'."
After that conversation, Austin moved to a flat purchased for her by Mercury's company. But he did not want her to leave his side, and so he employed her as his personal assistant and adviser. Mark Blake, author of 'Is This the Real Life?: The Untold Story of Freddie Mercury and Queen', told Biography: "She went on the road with them. There are photographs of them together backstage at concerts into the late seventies by which stage they were no longer a couple. He was to all intents and purposes a gay man."
He added: "It’s a very interesting part of their story, that having lived together as a couple and her believing that at one point they would be married and then having to come to terms with the fact that he was sleeping with guys. And they remained such good friends for so long after that. She stayed as part of the band’s entourage because she was part of his entourage. She was the most important person in that entourage."
After the pair separated ways, Austin had two sons with painter Piers Cameron, whom she never married. Later, she married businessman Nick Holford, but the relationship ended in a divorce after five years. All this while, Mercury lived the life of a rock god marked with substance abuse and random sexual encounters.
But Mercury and Austin could never stay away from each other for long. In the years leading up to his death, Austin reportedly worked for his management company. She was loyal by his side throughout, right from when he was first diagnosed with HIV in 1987, until his demise from AIDS-related complications four years later on November 4, 1991.
Speaking of the duo's final years, Blake said: "He kept her close by when he became ill. The fact that she was so well looked after in the will. She got the house and a share of the publishing. He effectively left a lot to her as if he was leaving it to his widow. Mary was probably good at keeping him grounded. She had been there before the money, before the fame and she was there at the end."
Austin considered Mercury her eternal love, she told OK! magazine. "When he died I felt we’d had a marriage," she said. "We’d done it for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. You could never have let go of Freddie unless he died – and even then it was difficult."
Mercury wanted Austin to keep the nature of his ailment a secret. He asked her to collect his ashes and place them at a private location never to be disclosed — a request she honors to this day. She waited two years after his death to secretly move his remains from his £75million estate, where she currently lives a quiet life away from the public eye, and buried them at an unknown location.
Austin told Daily Mail that the renowned rockstar "didn’t want anyone trying to dig him up as has happened to some famous people. Fans can be deeply obsessive. He wanted it to remain a secret and it will remain so."