A new documentary tonight on BBC2 shows ten iconic pictures of Freddie, from his birth to his final days and includes new interviews, including with his “first-ever” girlfriend Rose. It is fitting that the last image shows him in bed with the tortoiseshell mistress of his house, Delilah. Although there were six cats living at One Garden Lodge in Freddie’s final days, Delilah had always been the most pampered and indulged because she brought the singer so much joy throughout his life and comfort at the end. Stroking her was one of the very last things he was still able to do.
Freddie’s partner Jim Hutton described in the memoir Freddie And Me the special place the cats had in the star’s heart.
He wrote: “Freddie treated the cats like his own children. He would constantly fuss over them, and if any of them came to any harm when Freddie was away, heaven help us.
“During the day, the cats had the run of the house and grounds, and at night, one of us would round them up and bring them inside.”
Jim took the last known photographs of Freddie, days before his death, in his garden – with one of the cats, of course, by his side.
The ginger Tom prowling next to Freddie was Oscar.
The star’s live-in PA and friend Peter Freestone said: “Oscar was the first cat at Garden Lodge. He was a big ginger Tom. He ruled the roost.
“Until when Fred died, he just left. He left the house. He didn’t want to stay there anymore. He found another owner.
“Freddie used to say, ‘You own dogs, cats own you.’ I think that was one of the reasons he loved cats. Freddie liked their temperament.”
Inside the house, however, Delilah was “the princess” who Freddie always turned to, right up to the very end.
Jim said: “One of his final actions was stroking her fur.”
Jacky Smith of the Queen fan club said Delilah “was just kind of funny. She was a bit of a bully to the others, but was always first on his lap, first for food.”
Over the years Freddie had ten cats: Dorothy, Tiffany, Tom, Jerry, Delilah, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar and Romeo, the last six of whom outlived their owner.
He shared Tom and Jerry with Mary, who also later gave him Tiffany, the only thoroughbred cat he ever had. The others were rescued from shelters “To save their lives.”
Freddie commissioned artist Ann Ortman to paint all his cats over the years, but only one famously had a song named after and written for her.
In fact, Freddie dedicated his solo album, Mr Bad Guy, as follows: “To my cat Jerry — also Tom, Oscar and Tiffany, and all the cat lovers across the universe—screw everybody else.”
In the artwork for the album Innuendo, the Queen frontman is depicted with three cats wrapped around his head and neck.
And for his final video shoot for the These Are the Days of Our Lives, he wore his favourite waistcoat, a 1990 Christmas gift which was screen-printed with his cats.
Freddie once said: “There have only been two individuals who have given back as much love to me as I gave to them: Mary, with whom I had a long affair, and our cat, Jerry.”
Eventually, in later years, Freddie also had a loving relationship with Joe Fanelli (who also lived at Garden Lodge until the end) and then Jim Hutton.
The Queen singer also provocatively proclaimed: “If I go first, I’m going to leave everything to her (Mary). Nobody else gets a penny, except my cats.”
In the end he left Mary his house, fortune and half his future Queen earnings. The other half went to his parents and sister, with £500,000 bequeathed to Jim, Joe and Peter.
The cats remained at Garden Lodge (except Oscar) and Delilah was often spotted up on the garden wall.
IN TEN PICTURES: FREDDIE MERCURY, IS ON BBC 2 TONIGHT AT 9PM