By the mid-Eighties, Queen's proximity to royalty went well beyond their name. Mercury had become a friend of Lady Diana Spencer, then the Princess of Wales. The so-called "People's Princess" had endeared herself to a nation with her down-to-earth manner, but the constant media harassment was a tremendous strain on the young royal. So Mercury conspired to give her a night on the town.
According to a 2013 memoir by actress Cleo Rocos, Diana and Mercury spent the afternoon at English comedian Kenny Everett's home, "drinking champagne in front of reruns of The Golden Girls with the sound turned down" and improvising dialogue with "a much naughtier storyline." When Diana inquired about their evening plans, Mercury said they were planning to visit the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, one of the most iconic gay venues in London. The princess insisted that she come along and blow off some steam.
The Royal Vauxhall was well known for its rough crowd, and fights often broke out between patrons – perhaps not the best place for a princess. "We pleaded, 'What would be the headline if you were caught in a gay bar brawl?'" writes Rocos. "But Diana was in full mischief mode. Freddie said, 'Go on, let the girl have some fun.'"
A disguise was essential to the plan's success, so Everett donated the outfit he had planned to wear: an army jacket, dark aviator sunglasses and a leather cap to conceal her hair. "Scrutinizing her in the half light," Rocos continues, "we decided that the most famous icon of the modern world might just – just – pass for a rather eccentrically dressed gay male model."
The group managed to sneak Diana into the bar undetected. The crowd, distracted by the presence of Mercury, Everett and Rocos, ignored the Princess completely, leaving her free to order drinks for herself. "We inched through the leather throngs and thongs, until finally we reached the bar. We were nudging each other like naughty schoolchildren. Diana and Freddie were giggling, but she did order a white wine and a beer. Once the transaction was completed, we looked at one another, united in our triumphant quest. We did it!"
Not wishing to push their luck, they left only 20 minutes later. But for Diana, the brief chance to shed the weight of celebrity was precious. "We must do it again!" she enthused as they made their way back to her home at Kensington Palace.
Following Mercury and Everett's AIDS-related deaths in the early Nineties, Diana became the patron of the National AIDS Trust, one of the U.K.'s leading organizations devoted to the illness. Their night at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was turned into a 2016 musical, which was performed at the venue.