In his barnstorming, brilliantly frank autobiography Me, published in October last year, Elton John recalls in some detail the day of his wedding to German sound engineer Renate Blauel.
The bride looked gloriously beautiful in a white Lindka Cierach dress on that Valentine’s Day in Darling Point, Sydney, in 1984, wearing a heart-shaped pendant with 63 diamonds which Elton had given her.
The groom had asked for her hand in marriage four days earlier in a proposal which he says in his autobiography was driven by ‘insanity’ and the thought: ‘What if I had only spent the last 14 years sleeping with men because I hadn’t found the right woman yet?’
Don’t go breaking my heart: Elton John and Renate Blauel on their wedding day in 1984
Elton recalls that Renate’s father had been ‘extremely gracious after being informed that his daughter was getting married to a famously homosexual rock star in four days time’.
She was in love with him, but Elton now reflects that his emotional state only ‘felt remarkably like love’.
At the time of his proposal, he reveals, he and Renate had not even so much as kissed. As they left the church, an Aussie in the crowd shouted out: ‘Good on you, you old poof!’
Elton seems to play the whole affair for laughs in the book — although he says only nice things about his hapless bride, who loved him ‘unconditionally’ and was ‘heartbroken’ when they broke up.
She was ‘too decent and dignified’ to take him to the cleaners in their divorce, he writes. Indeed, she’s thought to have come away with a modest settlement of something between £5 million and £10 million.
But now Renate — who has entirely dropped out of view for the past 20 years — has suddenly emerged from the shadows to start legal action against her former husband, filing an injunction in the High Court.
Why? What has caused her to break decades of silence?
A perfectly placed source, who has been in communication with the reclusive Renate, confirms that the injunction relates to the book, which will come out in paperback this autumn. (Though why it has taken her eight months since the hardback was published to respond to its references to her remains a mystery.)
There is a belief that the book violates a non-disclosure agreement which both parties signed when dissolving their marriage in 1988.
Now living partly in her native Germany, Renate — who has never spoken about her time with Elton — has remarried and is described by pals as stylish, happy and formidably bright.
The last picture we have of her (far right, clutching a Louis Vuitton bag), was taken in 2000 at a petrol station close to her home in Shackleford near Godalming, Surrey, where she would be seen whizzing around in a top-of-the-range sports car. Since then, nothing.
A rare sighting of Renate Blauel (pictured) near her Surrey home in 2000, the last recorded photo of Elton John’s former wife
It is one of the most extraordinary disappearing acts in celebrity history.
What we do know is that she moved to Germany in 2001 having sold up in Surrey, and she is also understood to have bought a town house in London with her new partner. But other than that, she has simply gone to ground. Until now.
The friend explains her thinking behind this new legal move: ‘She didn’t see the book before publication. She got wind of it and said: “Make sure, please, that I am not in it”. She didn’t want to be made to look a fool.
‘As far as I am aware she sent warnings about the book. Maybe they never got shown to Elton, but the book came out and she was in it, and so here we are.’
The source adds: ‘I would assume that Elton’s camp will not want to go to court as she knows what went on in those years and will have a lot of juicy nuggets to share, should she decide to make them public.’
Another source says that lawyers for her and Elton ‘agreed’ what would be in the book after she warned him not to breach their non-disclosure deal, but that she is now ‘seeking an official ruling’.
What exactly that official ruling might entail is unclear — all we know is that she is seeking an injunction.
Whatever the case, Ms Blauel, 67, has engaged the services of Asserson Law Offices based in Tel Aviv. A spokesman said that she hopes for an amicable resolution of the matter.
For despite the fact she went through that extraordinary marriage with Elton, relations between the couple have certainly been amicable up to now.
It seems the marriage was entered into with absolute sincerity by Renate, who told a reporter at the time: ‘I’ve heard all sorts of stories about Elton and that he’s supposed to be bisexual, but that doesn’t worry me.’
Elton of course was more than bisexual, he was a gay man, desperately addicted to cocaine, and when he and Renate first met he was in a serious relationship with Gary, a hunky blond Australian who travelled with him.
Elton and Renate had first met at the AIR studios in London in 1982 when he was cutting the album Too Low For Zero. She was a lowly tape operative.
‘She was very quiet and unassuming,’ said John Hall of Rocket Records, ‘but soon we noticed that whenever Elton came into the studio, he’d say something to her. She’d laugh. Suddenly there is this little relationship going. And when the album comes out, there’s a dedication: “Special thanks to Renate Blauel”.’
In 1982 she was hired to work on his next album Breaking Hearts which was recorded in Montserrat in the Caribbean. The next year, Elton flew to Sydney to start a tour of Australia and New Zealand and insisted that Renate should come along.
He says in his book: ‘I started spending more and more time with Renate. I really enjoyed her company.
‘She was smart, kind and very very funny. She had a very British sense of humour. She was very beautiful but didn’t seem to know it.
‘She seemed a little isolated and lonely, a woman in a man’s world, and isolated and lonely was exactly how I felt inside.’
Sir Elton (pictured left) said that he enjoyed Renate’s (right) as she had a great sense of humour
He added: ‘I became more interested in talking to her than I was in spending time with Gary.’
Elton would ask her to have dinner after finishing recording in Montserrat, ‘just so we could talk.’ He wrote: ‘On more than one occasion I found myself idly reflecting that she was everything in the world I would want a woman to be if I was straight.
‘Obviously that was a huge If. In fact it was an If so immense that it would take an astonishing amount of convoluted irrational thinking to see it as anything other than completely insurmountable.’
But he became consumed by the idea of marrying her.
‘What if the problem in my relationships wasn’t me? What if it was the fact that they were gay relationships? What if a relationship with a woman could make me happy in a way that relationships with men had thus far failed to do?’
He raised the idea with Renate over dinner and she laughed, thinking it was a joke. ‘Up to that point there hadn’t been a hint of actual romance between us, not so much as a kiss. If I had any sense I would have left it at that.’
Instead he was ‘infatuated with the idea of getting married … it felt remarkably like being in love’ and he proposed again in an Indian restaurant. They were married four days later.
Up to that point, Renate’s life had been relatively obscure. Raised in Munich in a middle-class family — dad Joachim was a publisher — she lived modestly in a £34-a-week flat in a house in Kilburn, London.
Elton’s biographer Philip Norman notes in his book that their affair ‘proceeded with as much propriety as if they were teenage virgins.
‘In Sydney, even after their engagement, they continued to occupy separate rooms. Elton was constantly attentive and chivalrous. He would make jokes. She would smile. He seemed as delighted and excited as a person could be.’
Elton hints in his book that they had indeed signed a non-disclosure agreement. ‘Renate and I agreed that we would never publicly discuss the intimate detail of our marriage and I am respecting that,’ he wrote. At the time, though, he was happy to talk about their union in public.
He told an interviewer that there would be no dinner parties or discos for them — instead they would stay home and hoped to start a family.
He said: ‘We just want to spend some time together. We want to have a home life. I simply want to be a family man.’
However, in April 1984 he left Renate behind in their home, Woodside, in Old Windsor, and embarked on a European tour.
In his absence she remodelled the kitchen and Elton told her that she should also decorate and furnish a suite of rooms for herself. He said that he wanted to have children — ideally two, as he had been an only child.
But his sexual orientation meant that the marriage brought only misery. Philip Norman believes that Elton thought the marriage would: ‘stamp out his bisexuality … but within a short time he realised it hadn’t.’
Elton (pictured left)’s sexual orientation meant that his marriage to Renate (right) was a misery
Norman, whose definitive book, Sir Elton, was re-published last year, said: ‘He told me that he got married to please his mother. He felt uneasy and guilty about it long after he came out.
‘It is quite impossible to follow his thought processes but perhaps the idea was to have a marriage like Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West where each party was free to pursue their own interests.’
By 1986 rumours were circulating that all was not well. Renate would come with him to Watford Football Club, where he was chairman, and to music industry events. She also accompanied him to the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.
There was a thank you to Renate on his next album, Leather Jackets, under a pseudonym. ‘Special thanks to Lady Choc Ice for being a continued source of inspiration.’
And yet it was said that by then they were leading largely separate lives. Renate denied this and claimed that she and Elton were planning a second marriage ceremony.
‘I really don’t know where these awful rumours started. The truth is, we are as close as we ever were, and this is very close.’
In a separate interview Elton said: ‘It’s about time I saw the wife again … we’ve had to put up with an awful lot of nonsense during our time apart. The fact is our marriage is fine. I love her, she loves me and we are happy.’
But she wasn’t among the revellers at a huge party for 350 guests thrown in March 1987 to mark his 40th birthday.
Elton told guests that she was absent due to the flu but the next day his manager John Reid issued a statement to confirm that they had decided to ‘continue living apart’ —although at that stage with no plans for a divorce.
Renate had moved into a flat in Kensington provided by Elton, who persisted in saying that they might work it out.
Elton’s divorce from Renate (pictured) was not about work but about the ‘never ending delusional bull***’ of his cocaine-soaked life, according to the music star
He said: ‘The marriage isn’t over per se. We’ve just separated for a little while. We’re known as The Odd Couple, apparently. That’s fair enough. But we still get on very well. I still love her. She still loves me.’
There were reports that he had bought a new £75,000 marital bed from Princess Margaret’s son Viscount Linley, with E and R on its headboard.
In private though, the marriage was beyond repair. In October, Elton announced that he was selling much of the collection of furniture and antiques from Woodside.
His friend Nina Myskow observed: ‘What he was really clearing out was Renate.’
The divorce ‘by mutual consent’ was announced on November 18.
Renate’s statement blamed work — she was still a sound engineer — for their troubles.
‘Both of us have been and will be so busy with our own work commitments that we are seeing too little of each other. For that reason it seems unavoidable that we are growing apart.
‘We are, however, parting on the most amicable terms and genuinely intend to remain best friends. I am obviously saddened to see our marriage end, and I wish Elton all the happiness in the world and I know that he wishes me the same.’
Elton deeply regretted the divorce, which was never about work but about what he calls the ‘never ending delusional bull***’ of his cocaine-soaked life at the time.
In an Instagram post he said: ‘I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness and caused me huge guilt and regret.’
Biographer Philip Norman says: ‘He had bourgeois scruples about the marriage which you might not expect, but as a child of the 1950s he was in the habit of feeling guilty about everything.’
In his book, Elton reflected on the divorce: ‘We had been married for four years. It was the right thing to do but it was a horrible feeling. I had broken the heart of someone I loved and who loved me unconditionally, someone I couldn’t fault in any way at all. Despite all the pain, there was no acrimony involved.’
He added: ‘When I had children, I invited her to Woodside because I wanted her to meet them; I wanted to see her, I wanted her to be part of our lives, and us part of hers, in some way.
‘But she didn’t want to, and I didn’t push the issue. I have to respect how she feels.’
Now, though, he has the unappealing possibility of facing Renate in court.