House Of Maxwell BBC Two

BBC Two’s House Of Maxwell: the new documentary explores the scandal of the well-known family with never-before-seen footage

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House Of Maxwell is BBC Two’s latest true crime documentary which examines Ghislaine Maxwell but also takes a closer look at the scandals that surround the well-known Maxwell family. 

Following Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest in 2019, the horrific details of the sexual abuse he was responsible for shocked the world.

Epstein died by suicide before he could face trial but in December last year his associate, Ghislaine Maxwell, was found guilty of recruiting and trafficking young girls to be sexually abused by Epstein. Her bid for a retrial was denied by a US judge earlier this month.

She’s been the focus of a recent ITV documentary Ghislaine, Prince Andrew And The Paedophile, but BBC Two have now released a new docuseries that aims to explore the Maxwell family in even more shocking depth.

Many people will already be aware of the story of Ghislaine’s father, newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell, who died under mysterious circumstances after going missing from his yacht in 1991. House Of Maxwell – which premiered last night (4 April) – opens with true crime YouTuber Scott Sharp filming outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York. It’s where Maxwell is being held and is a stark contrast to the life the British socialite led before her incarceration. 

House Of Maxwell BBC Two
Robert Maxwell on his yacht in 1990 with his daughter Ghislaine and wife Elisabeth.

Sharp says: “Ghislaine went from private jets all over the world, private islands, hanging out with royalty, academics, scientists. Now, she probably feels very alone.

“50 years this family has been in a scandal. First, the dad. Then, it’s the brothers. And now, here we are – Ghislaine is on the chopping block.”

It’s a fittingly bizarre start to a documentary that uncovers equally perplexing facts. Her father’s death in 1991 was just the start of it all, the documentary tells us, and through a series of home movies and secret recordings, Robert’s final days were recorded.

Most of the archive footage has never been available to the public until now. We pan to a shot of an expansive yacht and the documentary reveals that this is the last known footage of Robert before his death.  

House Of Maxwell BBC Two
A photo of Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein from trial evidence included in BBC Two's House Of Maxwell.

He’s recorded by staff relaxing and swimming off the coast of the Canary Islands, but the mood back at home – and within his media empire – is very different. He knew this, though, because he secretly bugged his staff’s phones – the recordings of which are being heard in this documentary for the first time.

Although his disappearance at sea was the news story that dominated newspapers in the 90s, many people watching the documentary will understand the implications of Robert’s disappearance even more today. Not least because Ghislaine’s grooming and trafficking charges shine a new light on the Maxwell family entirely.

But actually, as House Of Maxwell shows, Ghislaine is not the most notorious member of this family of immense privilege. In the first episode, we’re transported back in time to the early 80s when Robert acquired the Mirror Group newspapers, which included the Daily Mirror

It was the start of a well-known rivalry between Robert and Rupert Murdoch, as the two battled for the top role in not only the British media landscape but also in New York. It was a move that Robert did with Ghislaine by his side and, as the documentary states: “She was a superb networker for her father. She was there to kind of help him navigate the power structures in New York.

“She didn’t seem to have a particular job description but she was her father’s daughter, his gal on the ground […] it just seemed the inexorable rise of Ghislaine Maxwell was happening.”

Viewers were quick to praise the riveting documentary for its enlightening investigation:

As BBC journalist Mobeen Azhar states, it really is “worth your time”:

And we’re already anticipating the next couple of episodes:

House Of Maxwell is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now, with the second episode airing next Monday on BBC Two at 9pm. 

If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault, it’s not your fault and you are not alone. You can find practical advice about tackling harassment in the workplace by visiting the Citizen’s Advice website, or calling the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Equality Advisory and Support Service on 0808 800 0082.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, Victim Support and Rape Crisis provide support and resources. You can also call the RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre) national helpline on 0800 0288 022. 

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Images: BBC

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