When it comes to famous families, there’s not many as notorious as the Maxwells. While the news has reportedly heavily on the crimes and associations of youngest of nine Ghislaine Maxwell, the former socialite and now convicted criminal, in previous decades it was her father, Robert, who took up headline space. Now a new documentary series from the BBC is delving into the many facets of one of the media mogul and his family, and their abuse of money and power.
The series is airing on Mondays on BBC Two, with the first episode having already aired and now available on iPlayer. Across three parts, the rise and fall of the Maxwell family is charted, beginning with Robert’s rise to a ruthless press baron, his much publicised death, and the Ghislaine Maxwell scandal that brought the family and its dealings back into the limelight.
The revelations and investigations into Jeffery Epstein and his close associate Ghislaine Maxwell’s crimes and influence brought the world of the rich and famous into sharper focus, making us question how much goes on behind closed doors in powerful circles. But while Ghislaine has become a notorious face in recent years, it was the career of her father Robert that allowed her to rise to such an influential level.
Episode one of House of Maxwell sees the life of the patriarch of the family examined from interviews with his secretaries and assistants, as well as archival footage. In the 1960s, Maxwell became a Member of Parliament, having adopted British citizenship in his early years, and later moved into the press world where he bought up the newspaper publisher Mirror Group. It was in the 80s that this acquisition led to a much covered press war between him and chief rival Rupert Murdoch for control and influence of the British press; Maxwell being more of a left wing socialist and Murdoch more of a right wing conservative.
The extent of Maxwell’s influence, from newspapers to East European governments is hard to contain in one documentary series, but where things begin to really get interesting comes at the end of episode one and during episode two: the disappearance of Maxwell from the yacht he named after his daughter in the Canary Islands and eventual discovery of his body. Having faced pressure from various debts and investigations into his alleged role as a spy, he had apparently taken his own life. In the aftermath, the vacuum in his place sees his empire collapse, and details of his fraudulent activities revealed.
Finally, episode three will focus on the scandal surrounding Ghislaine Maxwell, that brought the family back into the spotlight several decades after Robert’s death. Ghislaine, who had a close (and by accounts of those who knew them, odd) relationship with her father, becomes as notorious as he was, with her aiding of sex offender Jeffery Epstein and convictions of sex trafficking. This story of course is more familiar given its much more recent events, but will undoubtedly be as gripping as the rest of the series, focusing on her rise as an influential socialite and eventual partner to Epstein.
Despite the heinous nature of their crimes, the lives of Robert and Ghislaine Maxwell, and the rest of their family, are undeniably fascinating, and House of Maxwell portrays it in a way that paints the whole picture, as well as leaving you reeling from the extent of their reach. The second episode airs tonight at 21:00, and the final part airs next week.
PART 2 OF HOUSE OF MAXWELL AIRS 11 APRIL ON BBC TWO. ALL EPISODES WILL BE AVAILABLE ON IPLAYER.