Queen’s gay composer opens up about being told he had six weeks left to live

Peter Maxwell Davies was honored as one of the Queen's Companions in the New Year Honours list

Queen’s gay composer opens up about being told he had six weeks left to live
07 January 2014

The openly gay composer to Queen Elizabeth II has opened up about being told he only had six weeks left to live after being diagnosed with leukemia.  

Peter Maxwell Davies, who was honored as a Companion in the New Year’s Honours, is reflecting on his 10 year career as the Queen’s Master of Music.

In an interview with The Times, he said: ‘I’d been feeling unwell for a while and actually passed out on the Tube,

‘So I went to see the doctor. That was in March. He said: “You’ve got chronic leukaemia and it’s galloping. “You go to hospital now or you’re dead in six weeks.”’

Davies used his music as an inspiration for his recovery, telling himself: ‘You’ve got your Tenth Symphony to write and you’re damn well going to do it. You will get over this — come on!

“I think that my being unwell and under drugs probably de-inhibited all sorts of things that are in that piece. And I believe the experience has had a very beneficial effect on the symphony because it is emotionally very direct.”

He spent three months in University College Hospital undergoing the strongest course of chemotherapy available because of his overall general good health, joking: ‘It proves that there’s no justice in the world, because I have drunk alcohol as heartily and heavily as anyone on this planet.”

Davies was due to have a civil partnership with his ex-partner Colin Parkinson in 2007 but was blocked by the council disapproving of his choice of venue. Parkinson died last year after the couple split in 2012.

As a self-styled ‘old-fashioned socialist’ who once described himself as a republican, Davies’s selection to work for the Queen in 2004 could have been awkward.

But after meeting and working with Liz, he has described her as ‘selfless’, a ‘marvellous person’ and a ‘great role model’.

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