George Martin's children at odds over legacy of the 'fifth Beatle'

Alexis Stratford, the daughter of Beatles producer George Martin from his first marriage, 'was not invited' to ceremony in memory of her father's legacy
Alexis Stratford, the daughter of Beatles producer George Martin from his first marriage, 'was not invited' to ceremony in memory of her father's legacy - GEOFF PUGH FOR THE TELEGRAPH
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

With classic Beatles hits such as All You Need Is Love and We Can Work It Out, Sir George Martin was instrumental in creating the soundtrack for a generation’s relaxed attitude to relationship strife.

But the legendary music producer’s family has been riven by apparent rivalry since his death in 2016.

That has now come to the surface once again, in a controversy over an initiative to donate instruments to children in the Caribbean in the name of Martin’s musical legacy.

Martin’s firstborn, Alexis Stratfold, appears to have been ignored by the organisers of a ceremony in which more than 30 instruments are given by the government of Guernsey to young musicians in the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat.

Friends of Ms Stratfold are furious that although Martin’s two children from his second marriage, Lucie and Giles, have been invited as representatives of their father’s foundation to the handover ceremony on the island, she appears to have been left out.

This comes despite Ms Stratfold – who is Martin’s daughter from his first marriage in 1948 to Jean “Sheena” Chisholm – living on the island of Alderney, which is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

“It is shocking and nonsensical that she should be excluded from this charitable event organised in honour of her late father as his firstborn child and in fact the only one of his children who actually lives in the Bailiwicks,” said a friend. “It is as if she is being airbrushed out of his life which is very jarring.”

Sir George Martin with his first wife Sheena and their daughter Alexis Stratfold
Alexis Stratfold as a child with her father and her mother, Sheena - ALEXIS STRATFOLD

A source close to Ms Stratfold added: “It’s only right and fair that Alexis should have been invited to take part in the handover ceremony for what should be a lovely initiative to help children pursue their passion for music, reflecting her father’s pioneering work as a record producer.”

Announcing the initiative to donate the instruments to Montserrat, the Guernsey government stated: “Montserrat and the Bailiwick of Guernsey are musically linked through the family of Sir George Martin, the Beatles’ producer, who lived in both Alderney and Montserrat during his life, and so it was decided to continue this link with the donation of violins, violas, cellos, clarinets, French horns and a drum kit, with accompanying accessories such as tutor books, reeds and drum sticks. Mr Martin’s children Giles and Lucie are also supporting the donation.

“The instruments will be formally received in Montserrat by Giles and Lucie Martin and the island’s governor, Mrs Sarah Tucker, at a special event at the end of the month.”

Musical director Giles Martin, left, and his father Sir George Martin
George Martin and his son, Giles, who will take part in the ceremony in the Caribbean - ETHAN MILLER/GETTY

Tim Wright, Head of the Guernsey Music Service, added: “George Martin was an inspirational producer, and many of the biggest names in music recorded at his studio in Montserrat. For he and his family to connect us with Montserrat only makes this more special, particularly as Giles produced the recent Beatles release Now and Then which was released in November.”

But friends of Ms Stratfold have pointed out that as his first child, born in 1953, her memories of her father’s career in music – which saw him produce all The Beatles’ hit singles and albums from 1963 to 1969 – provide a strong and intimate connection to his legacy.

“It is ludicrous to ignore Alexis when it comes to anything to do with George Martin’s legacy. After all, she was there the longest,” said a close confidante.

The controversy over the Montserrat initiative is the latest chapter in the longstanding feud between the two halves of the family of the man known as ‘the fifth Beatle’.

(L-R) Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, producer George Martin and John Lennon
George Martin with the Beatles in 1964 - MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY

Martin, who died at the age of 90, reportedly left £325,000 – an amount small enough to avoid UK inheritance tax – to be shared between Alexis and several others, including his former chauffeur, three grandchildren and a niece. Martin’s eldest son, Gregory, Alexis’s brother, was written out of the will entirely.

The remainder of Martin’s £1 million estate – a figure disputed by some – is understood to have gone to his 87-year-old widow, Judy Lockhart Smith, the mother of Lucie and Giles.

“It was never about money for Alexis,” said the friend. “It was that George Martin’s first wife and children were being wiped from the history books — as this latest slight demonstrates once again. It is unjust.”

In one particularly wounding episode, all four of Martin’s children were invited to a gala performance of his music, but Ms Stratfold and her brother Greg were asked to sit in the stalls while Martin sat in the royal box with Lucie and Giles, who followed his father into record production.

A spokesman for the Guernsey government said: “The arrangements for the event to receive the instruments is being managed by Montserrat.”

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office sources said that as part of the Guernsey initiative, the George Martin Foundation “has donated some funds to support music in Montserrat” and that invitations to the handover ceremony had been “opened to members of the foundation who will be in Montserrat”.

Giles Martin has been approached for comment.

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.