It was at St. Peter’s where questions over Mercury’s sexuality began to form. Another student, Janet Smith, now a teacher at the girls school, remembered him as “an extremely thin, intense boy, who had this habit of calling one ‘darling,’ which I must say seemed a little fey.”
“It simply wasn’t something boys did in those days,” she said in Lesley-Ann Jones‘ Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury. “It was accepted that Freddie was homosexual when he was here. Normally it would have been ‘Oh, God, you know, it’s just ghastly.’ But with Freddie somehow it wasn’t. It was OK.”
Mercury returned to Zanzibar in 1963, the same year that British colonial rule ended, leading to a revolution on the island the following year, with poor Africans targeting the wealthier Indian population. As a result, the Bulsara family fled to London, eventually settling in nearby Feltham, Middlesex. Having left Farrokh behind in Mumbai, though still using Bulsara as his last name, Mercury enrolled at Isleworth Polytechnic in West London, studying graphic design. But he was soon caught up in the era of Swinging London.
“Most of our family are lawyers or accountants, but Freddie insisted he wasn’t clever enough and wanted to play music and sing,” his mother told The Telegraph in 2012, laughing. “My husband and I thought it was a phase he would grow out of and expected he would soon come back to his senses and return to proper studies. It didn’t happen.”