The Maxwell family are the focus of BBC Two's latest docuseries, House of Maxwell.


Airing weekly on the channel or available to stream on BBC iPlayer, the three-part series will look at the rise and fall of Robert Maxwell, whose illegal business activities became known following his death in 1991.

It will also explore Robert's relationship with his youngest daughter Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently awaiting sentencing after being charged with grooming minors and sex trafficking underage girls for convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein.

So, who exactly was Robert Maxwell? And what happened to him?

Here's everything you need to know about Robert Maxwell as House of Maxwell airs on BBC Two.

Who was Robert Maxwell?

Robert Maxwell (born Ján Ludvík Hyman Binyamin Hoch) was a British media mogul and former MP, whose fraudulent business activity only became public after his death.

In his early life, Robert was an Orthodox Jew, who escaped from Nazi captivity to join the Czechoslovak Army in exile during World War II. He became a decorated war hero after active service in the British Army.

In the years that followed, Robert went into publishing, building up Pergamon Press to a major publishing house. After six years as a Labour MP during the 1960s, Robert focused his attentions on his business, successively buying the British Printing Corporation, Mirror Group Newspapers and Macmillan Publishers, among other publishing companies.

Robert led a lavish life, living in a 51-bedroom mansion in Headington Hill Hall in Oxford. He owned a helicopter and sailed in his luxury yacht, the Lady Ghislaine.

He was married to Elisabeth Maxwell from 1945 and the pair had 10 children together, including their youngest daughter Ghislaine.

Ghislaine Maxwell, Robert Maxwell and Elisabeth Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell, Robert Maxwell and Elisabeth Maxwell BBC

In 1989, Robert had to sell some of his businesses, including Pergamon Press, to cover some of his debts.

His 1991 death led to the collapse of his empire, as banks sought repayment for huge loans. The news emerged that Robert had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his companies' pension funds.

What happened to Robert Maxwell?

In 1991, Robert Maxwell's body was discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean, having apparently fallen overboard from his yacht, although the exact circumstances of his death have remained mysterious.

At an inquest held in December 1991, the official ruling was death by heart attack combined with accidental drowning, although three pathologists were unable to agree on the cause of his death at the inquest.

Robert was found to have been suffering from serious heart and lung conditions.

Murder was ruled out by the judge and so was suicide, as his son shut down the possibility, saying: "I think it is highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life, it wasn't in his make-up or his mentality."

He was buried in Jerusalem.

The House of Maxwell continues on BBC Two on Monday 11th April at 9pm. All episodes are available to stream on BBC iPlayer. For more to watch, check out our TV Guide. Also visit our hub for more Documentaries news.


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