Who Is the Real Mary Austin, Freddie Mercury's Girlfriend?

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:28:48 PM ET
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Mary Austin is a private woman who prefers to keep information about her life and her relationship with Freddie Mercury a secret. Thanks to the monster success of the Bohemian Rhapsody movie, she has been thrust into the limelight once again.

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In fact, she worked closely with the director of the movie to ensure the film’s authenticity (mostly). But who is Mary Austin, and what was her relationship with Freddie really like? What did the movie get right — and wrong — about their lives?

Before Queen: Part 1

Born in 1951 in the Fulham area in London, Mary Austin came from a family of very modest means. Little is known about her parents or her extended family, but Mary has stated that she always wanted to make a good living since she was a teenager.

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Ironically, she ended up choosing to stay home and has been a homemaker for most of her life. Mary is a high school graduate and a Christian, and her favorite colors are red and blue. She loves to read, listen to music and travel. Her favorite actors are Jeremy Irons and Julie Walters, and she loves Italian food.

Before Queen: Part 2

Before Mary met Freddie Mercury, she was in a relationship with another future Queen band member, Brian May. They dated for a bit but broke up over undisclosed differences. May is the one who first introduced Freddie to Mary.

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"Strangely enough, Mary was the girl that I picked out as somebody fabulous, and I was kind of going out with her, and Freddie came up to me one day and said, 'Are you serious with Mary? Can I ask her out? And he did, and they were lovers for a long time," Brian May told Yahoo! Music.

The Fated Meeting

Mary met Freddie in 1969 when she was 19 years old and working in an English boutique called Biba. Freddie was 24 at the time, and he already knew he wanted to be a rock star — although he was a singer without a band at the time. Mary was impressed with the way he dressed and his interesting face.

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"He was like no one I had met before. He was very confident — something I have never been. We grew together." Mary has always said they had a lot in common and could talk easily about fashion, music and art together.

The Beginning of a Relationship

Brian May knew his relationship with Mary Austin wasn’t going anywhere. "She was wary of anyone, and so we'd generally just go out for a drink and say goodnight and have a quick peck on the cheek, and that was it really," he said in Somebody to Love.

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May encouraged Freddie to pursue Mary, and Freddie asked her out on his birthday — but she rejected him. "I was trying to be cool. Not because there was any reason I couldn't go. But Freddie wasn't put off; we went out the next day instead."

Living Together for the First Time

It didn't take long for Mary and Freddie to begin living together, although she admits it took her a while to fall in love with the singer. When she did, she fell deeply: "His pain became my pain. His joy became my joy," Mary said.

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The relationship moved quickly, and after five months, they moved in to a small flat in London. They weren't well off and had to share a bathroom and kitchen with someone else. They couldn't even afford to hang curtains on all the windows in the apartment.

Moving to a Better Place

The couple was eventually able to afford a larger apartment, but it took a few years. By that time, Mary had fallen desperately in love with Freddie. In fact, she said she had never felt as in love as she did then.

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She continued working at Biba for a while and enjoyed how much Freddie made her laugh at work. They had fun doing "normal things" like going to concerts, clubs and bars together. Even when Freddie became famous, the couple tried to act "normal" when they could.

Freddie's Unexpected Proposal

On Christmas Day in 1973, Freddie proposed to Mary. It came as a huge surprise to her. She even asked him which hand the ring was supposed to go on.

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"He bought me a ring and put it in the most enormous box. I opened the box, and inside was another box, and so it went on until I got to this very tiny box. When I opened it, there was this beautiful Egyptian scarab ring. It's supposed to bring good luck. He was very sweet and shy about giving it to me."

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The End of Their Romantic Relationship

Despite their incredible love for each other, the couple’s relationship became a little rocky. Some rumors suggest Mary wanted to leave Freddie to find herself, but there has never been confirmation on her end. It did seem like she wanted out, and that could have been because she subconsciously knew about his sexuality.

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Regardless, six years into the relationship, they were no longer discussing marriage. She finally 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." Queen was becoming famous around the same time.

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Freddie Confessed His Bisexuality

On multiple occasions, Freddie didn’t come home at night, and Mary suspected he was having an affair with another woman. By the time 1976 rolled around, Queen was an international success. One night, he sat her down and explained his sexual feelings to her.

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"I'll never forget that moment. Being a bit naive, it had taken me a while to realize the truth. Afterward, 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.'"

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Moving Away from Freddie

Their physical and romantic relationship ended after he confessed, and Mary moved to a nearby apartment purchased for her by Freddie's music publishing company. Even though they were no longer a couple, she remained in the band’s inner circle.

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"She went on the road with them. There are photographs of them together backstage at concerts into the late ‘70, by which stage they were no longer a couple," said Mark Blake in a biography about the band. Blake also mentioned that Freddie's inner circle knew he was gay and came to terms with him sleeping with men. Mary and Freddie maintained a great lifelong friendship.

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Freddie's Lavish Lifestyle vs. Mary's Home Life

Mary stayed close to Freddie, but they began to live separate lives. While he gravitated to a life filled with sex, drugs and rock ‘n' roll, Mary started dating painter Pier Cameron and had two sons. One of her sons, Richard, was Freddie’s godson.

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Eventually, it became clear to the media that Freddie was gay, and multiple slanderous campaigns were directed at him. Mary stood beside him through all of it, always providing a shoulder to cry on. He asked her in the '80s to work for him and the band as a personal assistant.

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Working as a Personal Assistant for Queen

Still actively involved in Freddie's life, Mary became his personal assistant in the '80s. She appeared with him on television and in photos a lot during that time. Most of the photos taken of them are from this era, and she was fond of being photographed with him.

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Mary had a lot of different jobs while working with the band, including responsibility for paying monthly allowances to Freddie's aides, including his romantic partner, Jim Hutton. Even though Hutton remained Freddie's partner until his death, Mary remained closer to the frontman than anyone else.

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Freddie's AIDS Diagnosis

When Freddie was diagnosed with HIV, Mary felt like a truck hit her. In 1987, successful treatments for AIDS didn’t exist, and most people who tested HIV positive ended up with AIDS.

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"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," biographer Blake said.

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Freddie's Death: Part 1

Mary supported Freddie's decision to keep his illness secret until he passed. She made the following comment shortly after he died:

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"It was Freddie's decision to finally end it all. He chose the time to die...he knew it was coming. The quality of his life had changed so dramatically, and he was in 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."

Freddie's Death: Part 2

Regarding visiting Freddie in the hospital, Mary said, "...it was upsetting. We were never allowed to get emotional around him, and that was hard." She remained by his side when his health took a turn for the worse. They would often watch footage of Queen's performances from years before that.

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"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," Mary said.

Mary’s Personal Grieving

When Freddie passed, Mary went through a long grieving process that continues to this day. She felt like she had lost someone she was married to — her eternal love. Mary remained close to Freddie throughout his illness, and watching him die was very difficult.

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"When he died, I felt we'd had a marriage," she told OK! "We'd done it for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. You could never have let go of Freddie unless he died — and even then, it was difficult," Mary said, reflecting on his death.

Inheriting a Mansion and a Large Sum of Money

Freddie included Mary in his will, and after his death in 1991, she inherited half of his total fortune. He thought this might cause her some problems, and Mary felt uncomfortable accepting the house and money, but he insisted.

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"Freddie's staff had been like family to me, but after his death, most of them had left because he'd been so financially generous to them. I had sleepless nights worrying about everything. I felt as if I'd done something wrong, and paranoia set in. Some of the fans even told me I was only the keeper of the house. That hurt."

The Family's Thoughts on the Inheritance

Freddie left a considerable amount of his wealth to his sister and parents. His mother wasn't upset by his inclusion of Mary and respected her son's wishes. Mary was like family to his parents, and they acknowledged the joy she brought into their son's life. Freddie's partner and staff each received £500,000.

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Mary received half of his reported $75 million estate, along with his 28-room London mansion that she still lives in to this day. She never changed the decorating style of the house and kept much of the furniture Freddie bought before his passing.

Hiding Freddie's Ashes

To this day, no one knows where Freddie's ashes are buried. Mary promised Freddie that she would never tell anyone where they are. Freddie told her he didn't want anyone to dig them up and take them. He knew "fans can be deeply obsessive. He wanted it to remain a secret, and it will remain so."

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She waited until two years after his death to secretly remove his ashes from his estate. Before moving them, she invited Freddie's parents to say prayers, but they don't actually know where she moved them.

Where Is Mary Now?

Mary had two children, Jamie and Richard, with painter Piers Cameron, but she didn't actually marry him. She eventually married Nick Holford in 1998, but they divorced after five years. She currently lives in London in the mansion Freddie left her, and fans often walk by the house to pay their respects.

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"I lost my family, really, when Freddie died. He was everything to me, apart from my sons. He was like no one I had met before." Mary never got over Freddie entirely, and he still remains her one true love.

Helping Freddie Kick His Drug Addiction

Freddie was well known for his lavish parties, which were way crazier in reality than they were in the movie. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction in terms of crazy things that happened, but there were strange rumors of people wearing meat and walking around naked.

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Mary watched him overdo things for a while, but she started to get really concerned when he became distant and always seemed to be ill. They didn't know at the time that he had contracted HIV, but she actively worked to help him quit using LSD and heroin, two drugs he frequently abused.

Bonding Over Strained Parental Relationships

Both of Mary's parents were deaf, and she grew up quite poor. Her father trimmed wallpaper for a living, while her mother was a domestic worker. Back in those days, if the mother worked outside the home, it was usually for economic reasons.

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Bomi and Jer Bulsara, Freddie's parents, were very strict and didn't understand Freddie’s desire to be a rock star. Kashmira, Freddie's sister, talked about the frequent door slamming after he fought with his parents about going out. Mary and Freddie bonded over their rocky relationships with their parents.

Various Other Female Lovers

That's right. Even though Mary Austin was the love of Freddie's life, he did have other female lovers after Mary. Some of his female lovers include former Drifters manager Faye Treadwell, Barbara Valentin and Mary Martin. Freddie always made it clear that none of them even came close to Mary.

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"Ours is a pure friendship but friendship of the highest standard. It's an instinctive thing. I still love her. We'll probably grow old together," Freddie said after he was asked about his other relationships. Although he preferred relationships with men, he did date women.

Longing for Freddie’s Child

It’s a weird fact, but it's true that Mary wanted to have Freddie’s child, long after they had broken up and she already had her first child. Even stranger, this occurred during the time when Freddie was at his most wild. Of course, it’s possible she asked him to have a baby because she wanted to keep a part of him forever.

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Freddie apparently told her, "I still love you, but I can't make love to you. I'd rather have another cat." Not surprising, considering he had more than 10 cats living with him at one point.

A Mostly Accurate Film

The Bohemian Rhapsody movie portrayed the couple as being extremely close, and that was completely true. Other accurate elements in the film include the falling apart of their romantic relationship, how they maintained their friendship for the rest of his life and how Freddie reacted when he found out Mary was married.

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The movie also accurately revealed Freddie’s tendency to call Mary on a regular basis to ask her how she was doing. It was a really cute, thoughtful, accurate addition to the movie.

About All Those Cheating Rumors

Sadly, when Freddie was coming to terms with his sexuality, he struggled with curiosity about being with men. As a result, he cheated on Mary multiple times, and he didn't tell her for several years. Mary was increasingly suspicious of his behavior. He avoided a lot of personal situations, including going out with her, and often lied about where he was.

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Mary finally confronted him, and this scene also played out in the movie, manifesting in her telling him she thinks he’s gay. This eventually led to their romantic break-up and their long-term friendship.

Is "Love of My Life" About Mary?

Yes, the love ballad — and smash hit — "Love of My Life" was written about Mary. Freddie had stated in the past that their love affair was truly dead and had ended in tears. Still, a deep bond grew out of that pain, and it was something no one could take away from them.

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"Love is the hardest thing to achieve, and the one thing in this business that can let you down the most... I have built up an immense bond with Mary. [We] have gone through just about everything, and [she has] always been there for me."

Making a Fortune from Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody had a budget of $52 million, but the movie earned a worldwide gross of $903.7 million. Rami Malek's portrayal of Freddie was adored by fans as well as the remaining band members of Queen. Mary Austin — portrayed by Lucy Boynton — played a significant role in the film.

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Mary currently owns 75% of Freddie's total future earnings — after the passing of his parents — so she made approximately $60 million off the movie. Freddie's sister received around $25 million, and the remaining members of Queen earned $90 million each. Mary will continue to collect royalties from the movie for a while.

Likely Bisexual Rather Than Gay

Even though Mary told Freddie he was gay, it was likely what she needed to believe to protect her heart from what was happening. Freddie chose to have relationships with women long after he was outed for having relationships with men. He couldn’t hide his sexuality from the media, although he never publicly admitted he was bisexual.

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Freddie continued to battle with the media and others about his sexuality. Bisexuality wasn't a common term, and people generally saw the issue in absolute terms — either gay or straight. Mary’s belief simply reflected what people thought about homosexuality at the time.

Locking in the Perfect Portrayal of Mary Austin

"Brian May was my main source of information about all things, Mary," Lucy Boynton said. "He was actually the person who introduced Freddie and Mary. But talking to his wife, Anita Dobson, as well... she spent a lot of time with Mary when they would travel with the band.

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"And so, just to get that insight into Mary — not when she was even with Freddie, but just her, on her own, in a kind of intimate environment, as Anita was with her — to get that kind of insight into her was very unique and special."