On Wednesday (6 September) afternoon, more than 1,400 of the late Queen frontman’s possessions sold during auction at Sotheby’s in London. The items were owned by Mercury’s former fiancée Mary Austin, 72, to whom he left his possessions and home in his will.
The items sold for an eye-watering total of £12,172,290, the most expensive item being the piano on which Mercury composed songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which went for a record £1.7m.
A portion of the proceeds will go to charity, with one lump going to the Mercury Phoenix Trust and another to the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Ahead of the auction on Wednesday, Queen guitarist May shared an old photo to Instagram of Mercury playing the guitar.
In the caption, the 76-year-old said that he’d been “inescapably thinking so much about Freddie in these strange days”. Mercury died in 1991 aged 45 following health complications relating to Aids.
“At the time this photo was taken I’m sure it didn’t seem very important to see Freddie’s fingers dancing on my own home-made guitar,” he wrote. “Now it summons up waves of affection and great memories. He is so missed.”
May then said that on Wednesday, while he was talking to Welsh farmers about his activism opposing the culling of badgers, “Freddie’s most intimate personal effects, and writings that were part of what we shared for so many years, will go under the hammer, to be knocked down to the highest bidder and dispersed forever”.
“I can’t look,” May wrote. “To us, his closest friends and family, it’s too sad.”
The Independent has contacted Austin and Sotheby’s for comment.
Other top-selling items in the auction included handwritten working lyrics for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which sold for £1.4m, and Mercury’s rainbow-coloured satin jacket which sold for £203,200.
A silver snake bangle worn in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video in 1975 sold for almost 100 times its estimate at £698,500, Sotheby’s said. Meanwhile, a sparkling silver sequined stage-worn catsuit worn by Mercury on tours in 1977 and 1979 went for £139,700.
Wednesday’s auction is the first of six devoted to Mercury’s never-before-seen private collection.
Reporting from the auction for The Independent, Annabel Nugent wrote that she thought of May’s words during the auction.
“As [principal auctioneer Oliver Barker] introduces the lots for tonight, he speaks not only of Freddie the musician but Freddie the man,” she said. “He suggests the items for sale promise to shine a light upon his much talked-about private life.
“It’s a touching sentiment, but also one I can’t help recall when Brian May later criticises the auction, writing that it was “too sad” to see his bandmate’s ‘personal effects’ be ‘knocked down to the highest bidder’.”