Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Mary's still unable to break free

Mary Austin with Freddie Mercury
Mary Austin with Freddie Mercury

A weekend interview with Mary Austin, Freddie Mercury's partner, was sad stuff. Cynics may sneer about her being left a fortune by the Queen frontman and opine that she should count herself lucky.

Yet, it was clear Mary still misses Freddie – who entrusted her to ensure that the burial place of his ashes remained secret – very much. Indeed, in many ways her life has stood still since the singer's death in 1991.

The legacy Freddie bequeathed to her was much more than just the vast majority of his fortune and his former home. She was also left the idea of protecting the myth while living with memories of a less than perfect reality.

For while Mary was undoubtedly the love of his life, Freddie was also gay, unashamedly promiscuous and, well, the greatest showman of the late 20th century.

That couldn't have been easy to live with. But live with it she has. And living without it seems to have left her slightly bereft. She split with the father of her children and a subsequent marriage foundered. She seems rankled that she no longer sees Freddie's bandmates.

And then there is the sense that she is still hanging on – hankering after – the past.

The rooms of her mansion remain more or less as Freddie left them, the furniture unchanged.

I suppose in some way the show must go on. Freddie honoured that tradition up to his last breath. With her infrequent interviews Mary is in some way following in his instincts. The fans can't be told where his ashes are, but the flame must be kept alive nevertheless. Still, if she was left the money and the house, she was also left with a lot of life still to lead. For all the riches, as Freddie once sang, it has been no pleasure cruise

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