Though Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin never officially married, they were engaged for six years before he joined Queen and became a superstar.
Mary Austin was never legally Freddie Mercury’s wife, but she was the only true love in the life of the Queen frontman. Although the rockstar ended his romantic relationship with Austin in 1976 and was famously rumored to be gay, he always spoke of Austin with the kindest words.
More importantly, it was Mercury’s actions that highlighted the close bond he shared with Austin for the rest of his life. He not only considered her his closest friend and continued to be accompanied by Austin in public, but also left most of his wealth to her.
So who was Mary Austin?
Mary Austin’s Early Life And Becoming Freddie Mercury’s Girlfriend
Mary Austin was born in London on March 6, 1951. Her mother and father came from a poor background and struggled with being deaf, making it difficult to support the family. Thankfully, Austin eventually found a job at a boutique in the fashionable London neighborhood of Kensington.
As luck would have it, Freddie Mercury had also taken a job at a clothing stall nearby, and in 1969, the pair met for the first time.
The 19-year-old Austin was not sure how she felt at first about the 24-year-old Mercury. The rather introverted and “grounded” teenager seemed to be the complete opposite of the “larger-than-life” Mercury.
As Austin herself recalled in a 2000 interview, “He was very confident, and I have never been confident.” Yet despite their differences, there was an instant attraction between them, and within a few months, they had moved in together.
Her Relationship With Freddie Mercury
When Mary Austin first struck up a relationship with Freddie Mercury, he was a long way off from international fame and their lifestyle was not exactly glamorous. The two lived in a tiny studio apartment and “just did normal things like any other young people.” Yet things continued to progress, both in the couple’s personal life and Mercury’s career.
Austin had been slow to warm to Mercury despite the fact that they began living together almost immediately. As she explained, “It took about three years for me to really fall in love. But I had never felt that way about anyone.”
It was around that same time in 1972 that Mercury’s band Queen also signed their first record deal and had their first hit. The couple was able to upgrade to a bigger apartment, but it wasn’t until Mary Austin saw her boyfriend perform at his former art school that she realized their lives were about to change forever.
As she watched him perform before a cheering crowd, she thought “Freddie was just so good on that stage, like I had never seen him before… For the first time, I felt, ‘Here is a star in the making.'”
Austin was convinced that his newfound celebrity status would entice Mercury to abandon her. The same night she saw him perform at the school, she attempted to walk out and leave him with his adoring fans. Mercury, however, quickly chased after her and refused to let her leave.
As Mary Austin recalled, from that moment on, “I realized that I had to go along with this and be part of it. As everything took off I was watching him flower. It was wonderful to observe… I was so happy that he wanted to be with me.”
Queen quickly rocketed to superstardom, with Mary Austin by the singer’s side all the way. Their relationship continued to progress and on Christmas Day of 1973, Austin received an unexpected surprise.
Mercury presented Austin with a huge box, which contained a smaller box, which in turn contained a smaller box, and so on, until Austin opened the tiniest box to find a small jade ring. She was so stunned she had to ask Mercury which finger he expected her to it on, to which the charismatic singer replied: “Ring finger, left hand…Because, will you marry me?”
Mary Austin, still stunned, but happy nonetheless, agreed.
However, she would never officially be Freddie Mercury’s wife.
Their romance at this time had hit its peak. The pair were engaged and Mercury had declared his love for Austin to the world when he dedicated the song “Love of My Life” to her. Queen had gained tremendous international success and the couples’ days of sharing a cramped studio apartment seemed far behind.
Mary Austin And Freddie Mercury Drift Apart
Yet just as Mercury’s career hit its zenith, things began to disintegrate in his relationship. After nearly six years together with the singer, Mary Austin realized something was off, “even if I didn’t want to fully admit it,” she explained.
At first, she thought this new coolness between them was due to his newfound fame. She described how “when I came home from work he just wouldn’t be there. He would come in late. We just weren’t as close as we had been in the past.”
Mercury’s attitude towards their wedding had also drastically changed. When she tentatively asked him if it was time to buy her dress, he replied “no” and she did not bring the subject up again. She would not become Freddie Mercury’s wife.
As it turns out, the real reason Freddie Mercury had grown distant from Mary Austin was drastically different. One day, the singer finally decided to tell his fiancée that he was actually bisexual. As Mary Austin herself described, “Being a bit naive, it had taken me a while to realize the truth.”
However, after the surprise had worn off she did manage to reply, “No Freddie, I don’t think you are bisexual. I think you are gay.”
It was a strong statement about a man that was rumored to be gay for much of his life but passed away without providing a clear answer.
Mercury admitted to feeling relieved after he told Mary Austin the truth. The pair called off their engagement and Austin decided it was time for her to move out. Mercury, however, did not want her to go very far and he bought her an apartment near his own.
Although their relationship had changed, the singer still had nothing but fondness for his former girlfriend, explaining in a 1985 interview that “The only friend I’ve got is Mary, and I don’t want anybody else…We believe in each other, that’s enough for me.”
Mary Austin eventually went on to have two children with painter Piers Cameron, although “[Cameron] had always felt overshadowed by Freddie,” and eventually disappeared from her life. For his part, Mercury struck up a seven-year relationship with Jim Hutton, although the singer would later declare, “All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible.”
‘Til Death Do They Part
Both Mary Austin and Jim Hutton were by Freddie Mercury’s side when he contracted AIDS in 1987. At the time, there was no cure for the illness and both Austin and Hutton nursed him as best as they could. Austin recalled how she “would sit every day next to the bed for hours, whether he was awake or not. He would wake up and smile and say, ‘Oh it’s you, old faithful.'”
When Freddie Mercury passed away from AIDS-related complications in November 1991 he left Mary Austin most of his estate, including the Garden Lodge mansion where she still currently resides. He even entrusted her to scatter his ashes in a secret location that she has still never revealed.
Despite the strange circumstances of their relationship, after Mercury died, Austin declared “I lost somebody who I thought was my eternal love.” It was proof that love often comes in the form of two kindred souls who trust, care, believe in, and completely understand each other.
After this look at the story of Mary Austin, read about another of his long-term partners, Jim Hutton. Then, check out some amazing photos of Freddie Mercury’s life and career.