Cynthia Lennon: Did She Deserve Better?

The premature and unfortunate death of Cynthia Lennon (once Cynthia Powell) on April 1st from cancer leads one to further ponder the tragic nature of her life. Yes, she cashed in on The Beatles early on in life, with John hitting the big time right after their marriage in 1962, but she had to endure the affairs, the loneliness and the utter contempt John felt for her. So the question is, did she deserve better? Or just what she got?

A moment of tenderness
A moment of tenderness
After meeting Lennon at the Liverpool College of Art in a calligraphy class, the two became somewhat close, or as close as one could get to someone as surly and impenetrable as Lennon. In fact, it was Cynthia who initially rebuffed his advances at a party, stating that she was already engaged. This offended Lennon greatly, who stormed off after cursing at her, which naturally charmed Cynthia, as all women have a secret love of being treated like shit.
The Lennons
The Lennons
Eventually, of course, Lennon got to her, consummating their as of yet unformed relationship in the bedroom of then bandmate, Stuart Sutcliffe. From that point forward, they were inseparable, fornicating wherever they could when a bedroom wasn’t available. But young lust was trumped by John’s blind rage, which he would often take out on her physically.
In the wake of Beatlemania
In the wake of Beatlemania
Having already formed The Quarrymen, an early incarnation of The Beatles, Lennon had plenty to keep his attentions not fully focused on Cynthia. Nonetheless, they were relatively monogamous, and, after John left for Hamburg with The Beatles for their residency at the Cavern Club, she rented his bedroom from his favorite person and aunt, Mimi Smith. Mimi showed open disdain for Cynthia, who had taken a job at Woolworths after her art school grades suffered in the wake of dating Lennon.
During the India days, nearing the end
During the India days, nearing the end
By 1962, Cynthia was pregnant after countless sexual encounters without protection. John’s immediate solution? Marriage. Thus, on August 23, 1962, they were married at the Mount Pleasant register office in Liverpool–a staid affair, business-like in nature. Indeed, The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, was one of the few people in attendance, in addition to Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The same night, John had to play a gig, and both were instructed by Epstein to keep their marriage and the upcoming baby a secret.
With Julian
With Julian
By spring of 1963, when Julian Lennon was born, Beatlemania was beginning its crescendo, but it wasn’t until 1964 that the public became aware of John’s personal life. Things between the couple began to devolve around 1965, the year John fell in love with acid. Although Cynthia tried it a number of times as well, at the encouragement of John, she never quite felt as strongly or passionate about it as he did.
Beatle wives
Beatle wives
In 1968, the post-Sgt. Pepper Beatles had transformed into meditative, transcendental souls visiting the Maharishi in India. Before leaving, Cynthia found correspondence from Yoko Ono indicating that she and John had been intimate for quite some time. Denying any relationship with her, the two flew to India with the other Beatles and their wives. The trip back, however, proved the final nail in the marriage’s coffin, with John drunkenly confessing all of his many affairs since they’d been married.
Early fatherhood
Early fatherhood
The aftermath of this confession led Cynthia to take a trip to Italy and spend the night with hotelier Roberto Bassanini, John took immediate advantage of her adultery and sued her for divorce, preemptively making it seem as though Cynthia was the cheating one. Custody of Julian was eventually granted in favor of Cynthia, with John allowed to see his firstborn twice a year.
Julian & Cynthia at the LOVE premiere in Las Vegas
Julian & Cynthia at the LOVE premiere in Las Vegas
John and Cynthia saw one another just once in the 70s before his murder in December of 1980. She would marry three more times after John, her final marriage being to Noel Charles (he died in 2013), who she lived with in Majorca, Spain, where she, too, would meet her end with Julian by her side. The great affliction of Cynthia’s life, obviously, is that she would always be seen as this sort of footnote in John’s life. Mocked and condemned for attempts at her own ventures, Cynthia seemed doomed to an existence of misadventure the moment she tied herself to John.