Maureen received unsuccessful treatment for leukemia at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. She died of disease at home on 30 December 1994 at age 48. Her four children, mother, husband and ex-husband Starr were at her bedside when she died.
Mary Cox was born on 4 August 1946, in Liverpool, England. She was the only child of Joseph Cox, a ship's steward, and Florence Cox (née Barrett). As a teenager, she remembered turning her school uniform around to make it look like a frock, and paying a school friend ten cigarettes a day to teach her how to "smoke properly". She left convent school when she was 14 years old, changing her name to Maureen when she began her career as a trainee manicurist/hairdresser at Ashley du Pre, in Liverpool, but was known as "Mo" to her friends.
At 15, Cox became a regular at The Cavern Club, and remembered the long queues and violent competition for access to the Beatles. Although she got a kiss from Ringo, whom she called ‘Ritchie’ (for Richard), he did not immediately notice her among his numerous fans. All the Beatles were supposed to be officially unattached, for image purposes, and when Ringo started dating Cox, she was often threatened, and once scratched in the face by a vicious rival. She even had to stop working as a hairdresser because of the threats. In September 1963, with her parents' permission, she travelled to Greece with Starr, McCartney, and Jane Asher.
On the eve of an international tour, Starr collapsed during a photo session at a studio in Barnes, London. Stricken with a 102 °F (39 °C) fever and tonsillitis, he was rushed to hospital, where Cox visited every day to help him recuperate. Afterwards they became a monogamous couple. On 20 January 1965, Starr proposed marriage to Cox at the Ad-Lib Club, above the Prince Charles Theatre, London.
After finding out that she was pregnant in late January 1965, 18-year-old Maureen married Starr at the Caxton Hall Register Office, London. The service was performed on 11 February 1965 by Barry Digweed, the superintendent registrar. Starr listed his father's profession as 'confectioner', and she listed her father as 'ship's steward'. Starr wrote that his profession was 'musician', but she left her profession blank.
Because of the pregnancy, the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein arranged the wedding very quickly, hoping it would be private, with John Lennon telling her there should be no tears, or she 'wouldn't be one of the gang'. McCartney was in Tunisia at the time, and could not attend. After the wedding, George Harrison (who had arrived on a bicycle) jokingly said 'Two down, two to go', meaning that the only two Beatles who were not married were Harrison and McCartney. The Starrs had a brief honeymoon for three days at the holiday home of Epstein's lawyer, David Jacobs, in Prince's Crescent, Hove, but gave an interview in the back garden on their wedding day, as they were being besieged by numerous reporters, with 100 photographers. Starr then had to depart to the Bahamas for the filming of Help!, on 22 February. She made it clear from the start that she would not give interviews, as a Beatles spokesperson explained: 'She doesn't want to get mixed up in publicity, and Ringo doesn't want her to, either.'
The Starrs were living at 34 Montagu Square, Marylebone, when Epstein's accountant suggested that the group members should move to houses near his, in Esher. Lennon bought a house called Kenwood in St George's Hill, Weybridge, Harrison bought Kinfauns on a nearby estate in Esher, and on 24 July 1965, the Starrs bought Sunny Heights, on South Road, St George's Hill, for £30,000 ($72,000). Ken Partridge was asked to redesign the interior of the six-bedroomed house, incorporating a private pub above the garage, called The Flying Cow, which had a mirrored bar, pool table, jukebox, and a portrait of Lennon and McCartney on the wall. A TV was usually on in every single room, and a go-kart track was laid in the grounds. Although she cooked for the family, the Starrs had a nanny who lived in the house, and a cleaning woman who visited every day.
After Lennon moved away, they sold Sunny Heights for £50,000 ($120,000), and bought a 16th-century mansion in Elstead, from Peter Sellers, which they soon sold to Stephen Stills, before moving into Roundhill, on Compton Avenue, Highgate, London, on 25 April 1969. They bought Tittenhurst Park on 18 September 1973, which had been Lennon's former home.
Cox enjoyed the closeness of Cynthia Lennon and Pattie Harrison, as they often went on holiday together, shopping, and celebrated Christmas. Starr promised that he would set up a nationwide hairdressing business for his wife, but the idea was later shelved, as she had to deal with looking after their children and being the wife of a Beatle. This would entail waiting with other Beatles' partners, at clubs like the Speakeasy Club, the Ad-Lib, or the Scotch of St James, or staying up all night, waiting for Starr to come home after a recording session, with a cooked meal waiting for him. She was also asked to look after voluminous fan club mail, and would personally answer letters. The Starrs were both interested in various arts, and collaborated on photo montages, paintings and simple sculptures together.
On 19 February 1968, the Starrs travelled to Rishikesh, India, with McCartney and Asher. They joined the Lennons and the Harrisons, who had arrived three days earlier. Maureen took an instant dislike to the spiders, mosquitoes, and flies that were ever-present in the ashram, and as Starr was allergic to many foodstuffs, he had taken a case full of tinned baked beans along, but soon tired of them. The division between the sexes was emphasised by the male musicians sitting outside at night composing songs, while their partners would gather together in one of their rooms, often talking about life as the wife or partner of a Beatle. The Starrs left India on 1 March, saying the unfamiliar food was not to their liking, and they were missing their children.
Cox sang backup vocals on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" (from The White Album) and was, along with Yoko Ono, in attendance at the Apple Corps' rooftop concert in 1969, which was filmed for Let It Be, showing her sitting next to the chimney stack with Ono to keep warm. Responding to applause, McCartney can be heard saying 'Thanks, Mo' after the final performance of "Get Back" on the album Let It Be.
The very first song in the Apple Records catalogue was a special private recording by Frank Sinatra. In 1968, as a favour to Starr, Sinatra recorded a special version of his previously released song, "The Lady Is a Tramp", for Mo's birthday. Sammy Cahn re-wrote the lyrics, and personalised them: "She married Ringo, and she could have had Paul/That's why the lady is a champ". Sinatra's recording was pressed as a single in Los Angeles, and notated as Apple 1. (Note: "Hey Jude" had been previously released as a single, but was not given an Apple Records catalogue number, instead appearing sequentially in the Parlophone and Capitol catalogues.) Starr presented his wife with the single on her 22nd birthday, 4 August 1968. Only a few copies were pressed before the master tape was destroyed; the song is still in demand by record collectors. A poor quality copy of the song began circulating in collector circles, and is now available on several bootleg albums. Starr and his wife attended a Sinatra concert in London, on 8 May 1970.
Zak Starkey was born on 13 September 1965, at Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital, the same day as the single "Yesterday" was released. She said at the time: "I'd like the baby to be like Ringo, but he need not necessarily follow in his father's footsteps". Starr said his son was "a little smasher", but also said, "I won't let Zak be a drummer", which was not to be, as his son later went to on to play with The Who and Oasis. Jason Starkey was born on 19 August 1967, and daughter Lee Starkey was born on 11 November 1970.
When the Beatles broke up in 1970, so did the Starrs' marriage, as Starr's infidelities were becoming more frequent, and his alcoholism was escalating. When the Harrisons were visiting the Starrs, Harrison confessed how much he loved Maureen, which led to an affair. Starr threatened divorce when he was told by Harrison's wife Pattie Harrison who had found the pair in bed together. Lennon was equally angry with Harrison, describing the affair as being "virtual incest".
Despite the couple's problems, notwithstanding extra-marital affairs, she did not want to divorce Starr, but eventually, on 17 July 1975, their divorce was finalised on the grounds of Starr's affair with American fashion model Nancy Lee Andrews. Starr agreed to give his ex-wife custody of their children and a one-off payment of £125,000, along with £23,000 a year plus £2,500 a year for each of their children. The end of her marriage depressed her deeply; she once rode a motorbike into a brick wall in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Starr later admitted that his first marriage had been dysfunctional, confessing that he had been "a drunk, a wife-beater and an absent father".
In November 1987 she instructed her counsel, Thayne Forbes QC, to sue Withers, the London firm of solicitors that had handled her divorce settlement, for an alleged "breach of contract and negligence", saying that a partner, Charles Doughty, had not fully investigated Starr's finances at the time and had not given enough consideration to the settlement amount and her personal needs. She was present for every day of the three-week court case, and when called to give evidence, she referred to herself as "thick as two short planks", and Starr as being a "sodding great Andy Capp" (a womanising, drunk cartoon character). Acquitting Doughty and Withers, Mr Justice Bush said that Starr was "a generous man" as he had increased her yearly payments twice since their divorce. He ordered her to pay the whole bill for the case, estimated to be over £200,000.
In 1976, Maureen started to live with Isaac Tigrett, best known as one of the founders of the Hard Rock Cafe and the House of Blues. They were married in Monaco on 27 May 1989. Tigrett, known for collecting memorabilia, once said that Maureen was his "ultimate collectible". During her relationship and marriage to Tigrett she often used the phrase, "Just give me furs, jewels and property, thank you". They had one daughter together, Augusta King Tigrett, who was born on 4 January 1987, in Dallas, Texas.
Cox attended the funeral of drummer Keith Moon on 13 September 1978, at the Golders Green Crematorium, along with 120 guests including Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
In December 1980 while Lennon's ex-wife, Cynthia Lennon, was staying at Maureen's home in London, Maureen received a phone call from Starr two hours after Lennon had been shot in New York.
Maureen and Starr became grandparents when Tatia Jayne Starkey was born on 7 September 1985, to their eldest son, Zak, and his wife, Sarah Starkey (née Menikides), in England.
Cox died on 30 December 1994, due to complications from leukaemia, after receiving treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. She had received bone marrow from her son, Zak, who then donated blood platelets and white blood cells. Maureen's four children, her 82-year-old mother, husband Tigrett and ex-husband Starr were all at her bedside when she died. Following her death, McCartney wrote the song "Little Willow" in her memory, which appears on his 1997 album, Flaming Pie, with a dedication to her children.