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Bohemian Rhapsody - Freddie Mercury's Koi Story

21st Nov 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody – Freddie Mercury’s Koi Story

With the advent of the new Freddie Mercury and Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, the sorry story of Freddie Mercury’s koi has resurfaced (if you’ll pardon the pun). Apparently Freddie was a huge koi enthusiast, with a complete Japanese garden at his residence featuring a pond stocked with close to a million pounds worth of koi!

Freddie began his collection with 15 koi in his specially built koi pond which was the centrepiece of the Japanese Garden at his residence, Garden Lodge, in Kensington. Over the years he and his partner Jim Hutton would gift each other with koi, so adding to the collection which eventually numbered a total of 89 fish. They were all nurtured and raised with loving care, reaching sizes of over 2 feet long with a value of up to £10,000 each. Koi are often referred to as ‘Living Jewels’ or ‘swimming flowers,’ and Freddie’s koi definitely occupied a special place in his heart, a sentiment which he expressed 4 years before his death from AIDS related illness, with the following:

"I've lived a full life and if I'm dead tomorrow I won't give a damn. I've finally found a niche I was looking for in my life. To have my wonderful Japanese garden with all this koi carp recently bought at such expense, I love it."

Freddie Mercury of course died in 1991. His Japanese garden and the koi residing within had become a cherished peaceful refuge, to which he would retreat as an escape from the outside world and a place to relax when his illness was taking its toll on him. At the time of his death it had actually become one of the most famous collections in the whole of Britain.

After the iconic rock star’s death the koi lived on cared for by another former partner Mary Austin. The most expensive koi ever sold went for £1.4m at an auction in Japan, and if properly cared for many types of carp (a koi is a type of carp) can live for up to 100 years. However the Queen frontman’s precious collection only lived on in full for little more than another 10 years after his death when tragic circumstances struck.

The entire collection had been transferred to a temporary holding tank while repairs were carried out on the original pond. Unfortunately one of the workers carrying out the repairs apparently turned off the power supply to the holding tank, meaning that air pumps and other equipment ceased to function. This led to the death of all but 5 of Freddie’s 89 fish! A tragic loss and not just in monetary value.

This story does serve however to show just what kind of devotion koi keepers have for their cherished pets. In our follow up blog next week we’ll tell you about some of the more outlandish and amazing koi stories of owners’ devotion and indulgence to these living jewels, such as owners who go to massive expense to heat their ponds in the winter to prevent them going to a dormant state, and those that will even go without food to ensure their koi receive only the best premium koi feed available