"I can't look... it's too sad": Queen's Brian May expresses dismay as Freddie Mercury's personal possessions go under the hammer in London, with his Bohemian Rhapsody video 'snake bangle' selling for £698,500

Freddie Mercury auction
(Image credit: GetMichael Ochs Archives/Getty Images | Sotheby'sty Images)

An auction of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury's personal possessions is currently underway in London, and his former bandmate Brian May admits that he is finding the sale "too sad" to watch.

More than 140,000 members of the public visited Sotheby's auction house to view the Freddie Mercury, A World of His Own exhibition in the run up to the week-long auction, which began yesterday, September 5, and more than 6,000 people have watched the opening days of bidding online. For the most part, Mercury's personal effects are being sold for prices far in excess of what they were expected to fetch.

Almost 30,000 items once owned by the singer - ranging from the Yamaha baby grand piano on which he composed some of Queen's best-loved songs through to personal Polaroid photos, gold and platinum discs, handwritten lyrics, a 'Dragon Throne' and around 50 Japanese silk kimonos - are going under the hammer. The items were once housed in Mercury's Kensington home, Garden Lodge, and were bequeathed to Mary Austin, one of the singer's closest friends, who has now decided to put everything up for sale.

A statement from Sotheby's described the exhibition as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the public and private realm of a global icon."

Posting on Instagram, Brian May admitted that he "can't look" at the auction, noting, "To us, his closest friends and family, it’s too sad." 

May writes: "Inescapably thinking so much about Freddie in these strange days. 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. Now it summons up waves of affection and great memories. He is so missed. Tomorrow while I’m speaking passionately to Welsh farmers about cows and badgers and bovine TB, 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. To us, his closest friends and family, it’s too sad."

Although Mercury's Yamaha piano sold for much less than expected - £1,742,000 when it had been expected to fetch up to £3m - the final bids for other items have far outstripped expectations.

A silver 'snake bangle' that Mercury wore in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody video sold for £698,500, when it was estimated to sell for £9,000. Mercury's garden door, meanwhile, which was expected to sell for around £25,000, sold for more than £400,000, including costs.

The auction continues through to September 13.

 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.