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Ghislaine Maxwell’s Old Uni Friends Reveal What She Was Like As ‘Queen Bee’ At Oxford

Jess Hardiman

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Ghislaine Maxwell’s Old Uni Friends Reveal What She Was Like As ‘Queen Bee’ At Oxford

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Alamy

Former acquaintances of Ghislaine Maxwell have revealed what life was like when they were at Oxford University with the socialite, remembering in a new documentary how she became ‘Queen Bee’ of a scene filled with drugs, alcohol and money. Watch the trailer for the documentary here: 

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In Ghislaine Maxwell: The Making of a Monster, we are given ‘unique insight into who Ghislaine really is’, including flashbacks to what life had been like before she became a convicted sex offender. 

Even before arriving at Oxford's Balliol College in the 1980s, she’d been ‘very self-assured' - despite initially struggling with her grades, having called upon Michael Crick - the President of the Oxford Union – to help her. 

Now-journalist Crick, who had tutored on the side to ‘make ends meet’, recalled: “One of my tutees was Ghislaine Maxwell. She’d been at Marlborough, one of our top private schools in this country.

"She hadn’t done as well in her A Levels as she should have done, and that’s where I came in. 

Ghislaine Maxwell in 1985. Credit: Alamy
Ghislaine Maxwell in 1985. Credit: Alamy

“Ghislaine would sit there on the corner of the desk – there was I, I was 21, she was 17. And she knew she was good looking and was very self-assured. She was incredibly bright, she’d pick things up very, very quickly, but the problem was she just didn’t do enough work. 

“I vividly remember her showing me one essay that was just two-thirds of one side of paper, and I was expecting sort of seven or eight pages. She’d probably written it in 10 minutes on the bus. 

“There was a lot of pressure on her to succeed, particularly as her father Robert Maxwell, he’d actually given money to Balliol back in the 1960s.” 

The documentary goes on to explore what Maxwell had been like when she arrived at Oxford, with friends remembering a ‘confident’ figure who would command the room. 

Ghislaine Maxwell when she was younger. Credit: Channel 4
Ghislaine Maxwell when she was younger. Credit: Channel 4

University friend Anne McElvoy said: “When I arrived at Oxford, she was a very well-known name – the name Maxwell was huge in those days because of her father Robert. 

“But she was also very rapidly, I think, established as a person in her own right. She was in the glossy magazines, she was in the newspapers. I think there was always something fascinating about Ghislaine – what is this person like? What is it like to be that famous?” 

McElvoy, who is now a journalist, added: “The Oxford of that time was very marked, still, by distinctions between class and birth and money. 

Still of Ghislaine Maxwell from BBC documentary House of Maxwell. Credit: BBC
Still of Ghislaine Maxwell from BBC documentary House of Maxwell. Credit: BBC

“I don’t think she was entirely seen as of that top drawer – families who’d been there for many generations.” 

McElvoy said Maxwell was ‘ambitious’, and had been desperate to ‘make her mark’ - even though she was already part of the ‘glossy posse’. 

“One good thing about her not being entirely from that world within the English class system was that I think she was very easy at talking to people,” she continued. 

“She had this extraordinary voice, this very sort of low voice, like a purr. 

“I think she also did quite enjoy being ‘Queen Bee’. She always presented herself as more knowing, sort of wise counsel to probably quite giddy people.” 

Anne McElvoy, one of Maxwell's university friends. Credit: Alamy
Anne McElvoy, one of Maxwell's university friends. Credit: Alamy

Later in the episode, another friend called Patrick Newman sat down with McElvoy to reminisce on their university days – including parties they’d attended with Maxwell. 

“She was interested in sex - I mean, we have to say that,” Newman said, going on to detail one evening where he’d gone to meet her at a student house. 

“She managed to, even if whatever was going on behind the eyes, you looked at her and she was completely compelling. 

“I was trying to chat up this very beautiful girl, and Ghislaine was very like this puppeteer. Ghislaine said, ‘Now you should say this’.

"She prompted in this wonderful femme fatale-ish way, with a cigarette and the whole thing... She realised that she could direct a willing sort of... She knew what to say.” 

Front quadrangle of Balliol College, Oxford. Credit: Alamy
Front quadrangle of Balliol College, Oxford. Credit: Alamy

According to society photographer Dafydd Jones, Oxford had ‘all these different kind of cliques’, and that Maxwell was often seen ‘dancing about’ and being ‘very physical’ and ‘flirty with boys’. 

“There were the Oxford Union people, who really seriously wanted to go into politics – people like David Cameron and Boris Johnson,” he explained. 

“Ghislaine had a different group, which were more sort of famous household names like Hanson, Sainsbury’s. And she flirted and talked to those people.” 

Credit: Channel 4
Credit: Channel 4

Writer George Monbiot was also befriended by Maxwell shortly after arriving at Oxford as an undergraduate, and soon came to learn about her power within the social scene.

“There was one set of people in particular [who] were living life to the limits,” he said. 

“A lot of alcohol, there were a lot of drugs, there was a lot of sex. It was pretty wild, and a lot of them had serious money, and that’s one reason I could never really be integrated. 

“And at its heart, among other people, was Ghislaine. She was a great social organiser. She knew everybody’s name. She did draw you in quite literally – sometimes grab you by the hand and pull you in and say, ‘Right, come and meet this person.’ 

“So she helped you to overcome your own shyness, so she made you feel welcome. Even though in retrospect it’s clear that I didn’t really belong, for that moment, I felt, ‘Oh yeah, I’m here, I’ve arrived.’” 

But beneath the appearance of being ‘outwardly very confident’, Monbiot was acutely aware that there was always something ‘brittle, vulnerable, frantic' about Maxwell.

Credit: Channel 4
Credit: Channel 4

"I began to see that there was a deficit there, which I felt was being filled by being this charming host," he said.

"And then suddenly, it happened almost overnight, I just couldn't take it anymore.

"What had seemed to me like this warm, funny, exciting, inviting, thrilling social scene suddenly seemed like a nightmare networking of bright laughter and false friendships. I could see the skull beneath the skin.” 

Watch the first episode of Ghislaine Maxwell: The Making of a Monster on All4 now, before tuning into the next two episodes on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 July at 9pm on Channel 4. 

Topics: TV and Film, Documentaries

Jess Hardiman
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