Maxwell-Meynard, Elisabeth 1921–
Maxwell-Meynard, Elisabeth 1921–
(Elisabeth Maxwell, Elisabeth Jenny Jeanne Meynard)
PERSONAL: Born 1921, in France; emigrated to England, 1945; daughter of Paul Louis and Colombe Marguerite Meynard; married Robert Ian Maxwell (a publisher), March 14, 1945 (died, 1991); children: Karine (deceased), Michael (deceased), Philipe, Ian, Kevin, Isabel, Christine, Ghislaine, Anne, Michael. Education: St. Hugh's College, Oxford, B.A., 1974, D.Phil., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Music, reading, swimming, travel.
CAREER: Writer, editor, and lecturer. Pergamon Press, England, in editorial relations, 1962–81, director of editorial relations, 1985–91; Remembering for the Future, chair, 1986–92, 1997, 2000; former vice-president of International Council of Christians and Jews.
(With Roman Halter) Remembering for the Future (catalogue), Macdonald (London, England), 1988, published as Remembering for the Future: Exhibition of Original Drawings and Reproductions, by Victims of the Holocaust from Concentration Camps and Ghettos, 1940–1945, Royal Institute of British Architects (London, England), 2000, published as Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocides, three volumes, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2001.
(As Elisabeth Maxwell) A Mind of My Own: My Life with Robert Maxwell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Contributor to professional journals.
SIDELIGHTS: Elisabeth Maxwell-Meynard is a well-respected scholar who specializes in the history of the Holocaust, but she is even better known as the widow of British publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. When Robert Maxwell died under mysterious circumstances in 1991, leaving his publishing empire in chaos, Maxwell-Meynard decided to tell the story of the couple's life together and give her own portrayal of the controversial man she had married. The result, A Mind of My Own: My Life with Robert Maxwell, was published in 1994.
Maxwell-Meynard was born Elisabeth Meynard in France in 1921. She met her future husband when he came to France as a military officer in 1944. The author recounts this meeting in A Mind of My Own and provides excerpts from love letters that the pair exchanged. She writes both of Robert Maxwell's love for their children, and his verbal abuse of his sons before guests. She discusses her knowledge of her husband's adultery, and confesses that when, during the last twenty years of their forty-six-year marriage, their relationship became intolerable, she and Maxwell began to lead separate lives. She also relates what she knows and believes about the circumstances of her husband's death; specifically, that he drowned in the ocean after falling from the deck of his yacht.
As Edward Klein reported in Vanity Fair, shortly after the event, a variety of theories about Maxwell's death were put forward by tabloids and other sources: "One claimed that Maxwell had died of a heart attack while having sex with a mistress … as [his yacht] sailed off the Canary Islands." Klein continued: "Another had him being assassinated on the high seas by frogmen … or brutally beaten by unknown assailants, then tossed into the ocean. A third said he had committed suicide to avoid facing exposure and public humiliation" concerning his ethically questionable attempts to save his failing empire. "A fourth argued that he had accidentally fallen off the slippery deck of his boat in the early morning hours and drowned." Klein added one final theory: "A fifth … speculated that the body identified by Elisabeth Maxwell was not that of her husband at all, but a corpulent substitute, and that Maxwell had done a world-class bunk." In A Mind of My Own, Maxwell-Meynard strongly rejects any notion that her husband committed suicide.
After the publisher's death, revelations that his employees's pension funds had been raided led some to direct their resentment toward his widow and family. Speculations in Britain were made that Maxwell-Meynard had been left five hundred thousand pounds despite the collapse of her husband's empire; she denied the existence of this or any inheritance and told Gayle Feldman in Publishers Weekly that her financial situation had been a factor in her decision to write A Mind of My Own. "I had always wanted to write my husband's life for my family, but never intended to do it for the public," Maxwell revealed. "Events decided otherwise, because after his death, with substantial debts and no income … I had to turn to the only thing I knew how to do to earn a living, which was to write." Ben Macintyre, critiquing A Mind of My Own in the New York Times Book Review, noted that the volume "is written from a strange compound of loyalty and pent-up resentment," and declared that "as a study in the corruptive quality of power, and the gigantism of one man's mind, Mrs. Maxwell's account is gripping."
Maxwell-Meynard has also become an advocate for remembering the Holocaust and has lectured and written on the topic. She is the editor, with John K. Roth, of Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocides. This three-volume, three-thousand-page collection of papers from a 2000 Holocaust conference held in England provides, according to New Statesman contributor Mick Hume, "expert analysis [that] sprawls over issues ranging from food and gender in the camps, through the ethical dilemmas of Auschwitz doctors and Nazi priests, to the debates about Holocaust denial, Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust humour today." Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, Richard Bessel remarked that the collection's articles contained "rich detail." Bessel added: "Given the size of this collection, that so high a standard of scholarship could be maintained is remarkable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Maxwell, Elsabeth, A Mind of My Own: My Life with Robert Maxwell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Financial Post, February 4, 1995, Michaell Urlocker, review of A Mind of My Own, p. 31.
London Review of Books, January 26, 1995, review of A Mind of My Own, pp. 10-11.
New Statesman, July 9, 2001, Mick Hume, review of Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocide, p. 51.
New York Times Book Review, January 1, 1995, Ben Macintyre, review of A Mind of My Own, p. 7.
Publishers Weekly, November 14, 1994, Gayle Feldman, "Of Love Letters and Laments," review of A Mind of My Own, pp. 22-24.
Times Literary Supplement March 15, 2002, Richard Bessel, review of Remembering for the Future: The Holocaust in an Age of Genocide, p. 7.
Vanity Fair, March, 1992, Edward Klein, "The Sinking of Captain Bob," pp. 180-186, 238-241.