When it came to sex, the late Freddie Mercury was famously unfussy.
“My sex drive is enormous. I sleep with men, women, cats – you name it,” he once declared.
“I’ll go to bed with anything! My bed is so huge it can comfortably sleep six.”
But back in 1969 there was only one woman for him – the shy, unassuming Mary Austin he’d met through his Queen bandmate Brian May while she was working in PR for trendy fashion brand, Biba.
Freddie, then 24 and running a clothes stall with Queen drummer Roger Taylor, was enchanted by the 19-year-old Mary and eventually convinced her to go on a date.
Love blossomed and they moved into a cramped flat near Kensington market for £10 a week before Freddie popped the question with a beautiful jade ring on Christmas Day, 1973.
Those days, according to those who knew the couple, were lived in a blissful haze of love and lust.
Writer Lesley-Ann Jones, who toured with the band in the 1980s and wrote Bohemian Rhapsody: the Definitive Biography, told the New York Post: “Freddie idolised her, really. He was devoted to her.
“Mick Rock, the photographer, used to go around and have tea with them and he said it would all be terribly sweet. The tablecloth would come out [along with] bone china cups and little teacups and nice little plates of biscuits, and you’d all sit there with your little fingers sort of raised, drinking tea properly.
“They were this old married couple,” she continued, “and they would spend a lot of time in bed.”
But Freddie developed a habit that ‘wreaked havoc with his sex life’ – admitting he would play his keyboard in the sack if inspiration struck.
He once joked: “That didn’t last long – she wouldn’t put up with it. And I can’t say I’m surprised!”
But despite their domestic bliss, Mary felt the sands shifting. The wedding wasn’t mentioned again and she began to suspect Freddie was seeing another woman.
The truth, she would learn from Freddie himself, was that he was bisexual. And while Mary was supportive, her heart was broken.
“I’ll never forget that moment. I remember saying to him, ‘No Freddie, I don’t think you are bisexual. I think you are gay,'” she told the Daily Mail in a rare interview.
Freddie, too, was distraught and bought her a £300,000 flat nearby so they could remain close – which they did until his tragic death for AIDs related illness in 1991.
“Our love affair ended in tears, but a deep bond grew out of it, and that’s something nobody can take away from us,” he once said, revealing he never loved anyone as much as Mary.
He continued: “It’s unreachable. People always ask me about sexuality and all those things, right from the early days, but I couldn’t fall in love with a man the same way as I have with Mary.
“All my lovers asked me why they couldn’t replace Mary, but it’s simply impossible.”
He hired Mary as his assistant and it was she who delivered the crushing news of Freddie’s diagnosis to him before nursing him through his final days.
Freddie often described her as his ‘common-law wife’, explaining in 1985 how he had never needed anyone else.
There was, however, one thing that he reportedly wouldn’t give her – and that was a child.
According to Lesley-Ann Jones, after their split Mary suggested they should try for a child together, but Freddie told her, “he would rather have another cat.”
And in 2013, Mary said Freddie’s brave decision to come out as bisexual and end their physical relationship probably saved her life.
“If he hadn’t been such a decent human being and told me I wouldn’t be here,” she told the Daily Mail. “If he had gone along living a bisexual life without telling me, I would have contracted AIDs and died.”
Freddie stayed true to his word to ‘love her until I draw my last breath,’ and left Mary half of his £75million estate, including a £25million mansion in Kensington, reasoning that, “You would have been my wife, and it would have been yours anyway.”
For Mary, the hole left by Freddie’s departure is too big to contemplate filling.
“I lost somebody who I thought was my eternal love,” she sid.
“When he died I felt we’d had a marriage. We’d lived our vows. We’d done it for better for 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.”