Freddie Mercury’s groundbreakingly brave statement about Aids just 24 hours before his death
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died at home on November 24 1991 – just hours after releasing a brave statement confirming he was HIV positive
Freddie Mercury has been gone for nearly 30 years, but his legacy is more important than ever.
The Queen frontman died at home surrounded by just one close friend on Sunday November 24 1991.
He had become a recluse in the last two years of his life, secluding himself behind the tall brick walls of his home in west London’s Kensington – picked out specially by his ex-girlfriend Mary Austin.
Having cemented himself as one of rock n’ roll’s biggest, brightest stars in the 1970s and 80s, Freddie – born Frederick Bulsara – found himself under close scrutiny from the more homophobic elements of the press in the last years of his life.
He was the subject of intense speculation about his health in the early 90s, amid the terrifying Aids epidemic that was sweeping through the gay community.
But Freddie kept tight-lipped about his own HIV status until his dying days.
On his final Saturday, the beloved singer bravely confirmed he was battling Aids, but had kept quiet in order to preserve his friends’ privacy.
In a statement released from his death bed through his publicist, Roxy Meades, Freddie spoke out to confirm the speculation – but in a way that would ensure he had the last word.
“Following enormous conjecture in the press, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have Aids,” he announced.
“I felt it correct to keep this information private in order to protect the privacy of those around me.
“However, the time has now come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth, and I hope everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease,” he added.
Just 24 hours later, Freddie took his last breath.
He was just 45.
Freddie’s close friend Dave Clark – lead singer of the Dave Clark Five – was with him when he died.
“I was with him at his house right at the end,” he told the Daily Mail in 2008.
“The doctors had left, and we knew it was only a matter of time. We were alone, and when he passed away, I went downstairs to tell Phoebe, his PA, and Joe, his chef.
“His former girlfriend, Mary Austin, came over, and I phoned Freddie’s parents to break the news. He looked at peace. But it was such a waste.”
Emotional Dave went on: “He gave so much, but he had so much more to give.”
Freddie was notoriously shy in real life, especially around people he didn’t know, but cultivated a flamboyant stage presence and basked in adoration from his fans.
“There were two sides to Freddie. There was the performer who was larger than life – the bigger the audience, the better. And there was the other side,” Dave added at the time.
“He was the most caring person. He was very honest with Mary when he decided to come out and admit he was gay. Their relationship always remained strong.”
Freddie himself addressed his dual personalities, insisting that his quieter, more sedate way of living after the heady heights of fame were the real him.
“I’m so powerful on stage that I seem to have created a monster. When I’m performing I’m an extrovert, yet inside I’m a completely different man,” he had said.
He left Mary with explicit instructions to take his remains and bury them somewhere secret, out of fear his body could be exhumed by crazed fans or his grave wrecked by bigots.
The woman he called his common-law wife followed his final wish to the letter, and has never let slip the location of his resting place in the 28 years since he died.
To ensure she would remain financially secure for the rest of her life, Freddie also gifted Mary a share of the profits from his future record sales.
She has since admitted that the charismatic singer “chose his 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,” she once said.
“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.
But Mary, who still lives in the home given to her by the late star, says Freddie was “peaceful” at the end and “died with a smile on his face”.
Since his death, Freddie’s legacy has helped countless other people suffering with Aids.
His remaining bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, along with their manager Jim Beach, launched the Mercury Phoenix Trust charity to fight HIV and Aids around the world in Freddie’s name.
They also pulled together the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in April 1992, which featured emotional performances from the likes of David Bowie, Elton John and George Michael.
It was watched by a billion people around the globe and raised the equvivilent of £80million, the proceeds of which were used to launch Freddie’s trust.
Author: Emmeline Saunders