*** Daily Mail 22 Jan 00 ***
The incredible story of the woman Freddie loved
The shy woman who was left the Mercury millions
The world was shocked when the flamboyant Freddie Mercury, who died of Aids in 1991, left the bulk of his multi-million pound fortune to a girlfriend. But for years the Queen front man and Mary Austin had lived together as man and wife and now, for the first time, the woman he loved tells DAVID WIGG how money wasn’t the star’s only legacy. Main photograph by JOHN PAUL BROOKE.
When Freddie Mercury first told his former girlfriend Mary Austin that he intended to leave her his magnificent Georgian mansion in London’s Kensington, her immediate reaction was one of shock and fear. In fact, she was so terrified of taking on such an enormous responsibility that she urged him to place the house, with its beautiful collection of antique furniture and paintings, in trust as a museum.
Freddie considered this option, but decided he wanted Mary – his lover for six years before he decided he preferred male partners – to have something permanent in her life. Not only did he leave her his mansion, which stands behind a walled Japanese garden, but also the bulk of his multi-million pound fortune, with an income for life from his vast record sales and publishing.
In the year up until his death in 1991, Mary juggled looking after her son Richard, now nine, and his father, Piers Cameron, with attending to Freddie as he suffered the final stages of Aids. At the same time she was preparing for the birth of a second baby, Jamie, now eight.
Long before he told any of his close friends or the fellow members of his pop group Queen that he had Aids, he confided his secret to Mary. From that moment she was there each day to try to comfort him as he gradually became more ill. As he started to lose his sight and his body became so weak that finally he couldn’t even get out of bed, Freddie decided to face up to dying by refusing to take his medication.
‘It was Freddie’s decision to finally end it all – he chose the time to die,’ Mary recalls in a whisper.
‘He knew it was coming – that it was closer than it had ever been before. Then he suddenly said, “I’ve decided that I’ve got to go!”‘ ‘The quality of his life had changed so dramatically and he was in more and more pain every day. He was losing his sight. His body became weaker as he suffered mild fits. It was so distressing to see him deteriorating in this way. One day he decided enough was enough and stopped all the medical supplements that were keeping him going. He just turned off. The overwhelming thing for me was that he was just so incredibly brave. He looked death in the face and said, “Fine, I’ll accept it now – I’ll go.” But it was peaceful and he died with a smile on his face.’
After his death, on November 24, 1991, Mary moved into his pallatial home, but as she wandered through the huge galleried sitting rooms, surrounded by Freddie’s treasures, her feelings were of confusion and loneliness. ‘It was the loneliest and most difficult time of my life after Freddie died’, she says. I knew I was having trouble coming to terms with his death and everything he had left me. I was best left to myself in order come out of it.’
Mary – who had grown up in a modest terraced house in Fulham, West London – found there was much to cope with; the responsibility of the house and staff and suddenly coming into immense wealth. There were compliations over the will and some of Freddie’s relatives and friends were annoyed that she was left so much.
‘I always had Freddie to turn to and he always had me to turn to if need be. Suddenly, there wasn’t anyone to help me. It made me realise that I wasn’t as self-sufficient as I would have liked to have been. As much as I’d been a friend to him, I realised how much a friend he’d been to me – the fact of just knowing that he was there.’ ‘He was always very protective of me. I only realised after he died, quite how protective he’d been. If something happened he’d say, “Oh darling, don’t worry we’ll get over that.” He was uplifting. At other times, when he was aware he had Aids and only had a limited time to live, there’d be the odd serious conversation when he’d say to me, “Let’s go and sit, we don’t know how long we have.”