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The heartbreaking true story of Elton John’s brief marriage to Renate Blauel

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The story of Elton John and Renate Blaeul will figure in the new movie Rocketman. Here, we share the tale of their whirlwind romance and separation. 

Sydney has its fair share of beautiful churches, but St Mark’s in Darling Point is perhaps the most beautiful of them all.

Perched at the top of a hill that trips down to the sparkling harbour, St Mark’s is a beautifully restored sandstone Anglican church that has played host to many weddings over the years. None more famous, though, than the union between 36-year-old Elton John and 28-year-old Renate Blaeul on Valentine’s Day, 1984.

The couple had met in 1983 in London when Blauel, a sound engineer by trade, was drafted in to work on John’s Too Low For Zero album. When the singer was touring the record in Australia, Blauel accompanied him in secret. On 10 February, John proposed to Blauel over a chicken curry dinner at an Indian restaurant. They told the media the next day and tied the knot three days after that.

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The marriage did not last long. By 1988, John and Blauel were divorced, and the pair remain heartbreakingly estranged to this day. But who is Renate Blauel, and what is the story of her relationship with Elton John? 

What is the true story of Elton John and Renate Blauel’s relationship? 

Elton John and Renate Blauel

Born in Munich, Blauel was working as a sound technician in London when she met John in 1983. Friends described her as a quiet, shy woman who was most comfortable in jeans and T-shirts.

At the time, John was openly bisexual, having come out in 1976. Blauel and John struck up a close friendship, and when he went on tour in Australia to promote his new album Too Low For Zero, Blauel was by his side.

Still, the surprise whirlwind wedding came as a shock to many of John’s friends and family. According to his frequent collaborator Bernie Taupin, John wanted to marry Blauel because he was desperate to start a family. (His mother Sheila gifted the newlyweds a pram, according to the singer’s former publicist Caroline Boucher.)

Elton John and Renate Blauel on their wedding day

Their wedding might have been last minute, but it didn’t appear that way. John wore a purple and white striped shirt and matching lilac bow tie with a silver coat that reportedly cost £1,000. Blauel’s wedding dress was made of white silk and lace, worn with a heart-shaped pendant necklace studded with 63 glittering diamonds.

Olivia Newton-John and Rod Stewart were some of the wedding’s A-list guests. “You may still be standing, but we’re all on the fucking floor,” was Stewart’s congratulatory message to his pal. 

What is the true story of Elton John and Renate Blauel’s divorce?

The marriage lasted only four years. By 1988, Blauel and John were divorced.

Blauel and John divorced in 1988

According to People, the split came about because of John’s work commitments. “Elton’s just not around,” a friend told the magazine. “Their paths aren’t crossing.”

But there were other contributing factors too, one of which was that John was struggling with his sexual identity. Soon after the divorce, he came out as gay. (In 1993 he met his partner David Furnish, to whom he is still married today. The couple have two children.)

The singer was also battling substance abuse. John himself has said that during his relationship with Blauel he would often drink six martinis in a sitting and was addicted to cocaine. “A drug addict thinks like this: ‘I’ve had enough boyfriends, and that’s not made me happy, so I’ll have a wife – that will change everything.’” John has said. “And I loved Renate. She’s a great girl. I really, really loved her. But you know… it is one of the things I regret most in my life, hurting her.” 

Just before the pair’s divorce, John threw Blauel a lavish birthday party rumoured to have cost him $44,000. It was to be one of the last times the couple were seen together before announcing their split in 1988. Blauel’s divorce settlement was rumoured to have been £5 million, as well as the keys to a cottage in Surrey that John had purchased for her.

At the time, Blauel released a simple statement that said that the split was amicable and that her and John “genuinely intend to remain best of friends.”  

What has Elton John said about Renate Blauel?

The truth of the matter was that Blauel was heartbroken by the split. She has never spoken about her relationship with John, and the pair have not seen each other since their divorce.

“I hope one day that we can meet and be friends,” John said in the documentary Tantrums and Tiaras. “We haven’t been in touch, we’ve had no contact at all which is very sad, but she wants it that way. I don’t have any negative things to say about her at all.” 

According to locals in the Surrey village where Blauel lived before she returned to Germany to care for her elderly parents, she still mourned the breakdown of her relationship.

“We don’t mention Elton’s name because we know it still upsets her,” Maxine Knight told The Daily Mirror. “She’s as reluctant to talk about that time in private as she is in public. The warmth she’s found in the village has helped her get back on her feet.” 

John has spoken about Blauel only a few times in the intervening years since their split. One was during that documentary, and another was when Australia was in the throes of the country’s campaign to legalise same sex marriage in 2017, which passed in November of that year. 

While the debate raged, John shared an image on Instagram of his marriage to Furnish with a caption that touched on the important role Australia has played in his romantic life over the years.

“Many years ago, I chose Australia for my wedding to a wonderful woman for whom I have so much love and admiration,” he wrote. “I wanted more than anything to be a good husband, but I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness, and caused me huge guilt and regret. To be worthy of someone’s love, you have to be brave enough and clear eyed enough to be honest with yourself and your partner.”

He continued: “I love Australia. I love its spirit, its lack of pretence, its passion. I hope it can embrace the honesty and courage that seeks gay marriage as an expression not of desire but of love.” 

Will Renate Blauel be in Rocketman?

The story of John and Blauel’s relationship will be one of the storylines in Rocketman, the biopic of John’s life premiering at the Cannes Film Festival.

John will be played by Taron Egerton while Blauel will be played by Celine Schoenmaker. Richard Madden co-stars as John’s manager John Reid, while Jamie Bell plays John’s best friend Bernie Taupin. You can see a brief snippet of the John-Blauel wedding day in the Rocketman trailer.

Rocketman will be released in the UK on 24 May and in the US on 31 May. 

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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