During the past decade or so we have seen the swift rise of affluent home owners employing private butlers to add a touch of class to their place of dwelling. You only have to type the word ‘Butler’ on Google to be quickly taken to a list of specialised private staffing agencies of whom offer bespoke household staffing solutions to discerning clients around the world.
In terms of Royal households, they seem to do all of their recruiting in-house. It was only last year in April 2015 when HM Queen Elizabeth II placed an advert on the Royal website for a trainee butler. The butler duties included the usual specifications as well as the ‘ability to coordinate luggage arrivals’. The salary for the position was less than £16,000 per year which is rather on the low side, but for a young, budding job seeker it would be the making of your CV and your future in the private service industry. Former royal butlers are very much at the top of the butling food chain and can command salaries surpassing £100,000 per year.
We had the chance to speak to Mr Paul Brown, a former Royal butler who was based full time at Buckingham Palace between 1986 and 1991. Back in 1986, the internet was 5 years away from being available in the public domain, so job opportunities were broadcast in local and national papers. Paul’s career started when he came across a job advert in a local Windsor newspaper which stated that a large Berkshire home was in need of a butler. After applying, Paul was invited to Buckingham Palace for an interview and was offered the position of Junior Footman…the rest is history.
Paul took time out of his busy schedule to have a chat about working inside a royal household and what the role of butler encompasses as well as briefly talking about his impressive career to date. I started by asking his thoughts on the main differences in terms of working inside a Royal household compared with that of a successful business mogul or celebrity?
“A butler is a butler, so often when you come across people who will ask for a certain type of butler, well really a butler if he is worth his salt is adaptable to his client. A royal house is very formal and steeped in pomp and pageantry. They have the luxury of having a style of doing things which nobody really has anymore. So they have a large household staff which is very hard to come by, pretty much like Downton Abbey where you have under butlers, butlers and this huge, plethora of people that are there to serve the state banquet for example. You just don’t have that anymore. Even when you work in a private household, they would find it very hard to justify to have as many people on a service as they would in a Royal household. There you’ll have a Paige, you’ll have a Footman, you’ll have an Under Butler, a Wine Butler and another Paige, that is just in the dining room for one service. So you have this huge way of doing things which is not easy to mirror when working inside a private household. In the Middle-East they still have a large household staffs when you can actually mirror it.”
Some might say that working inside the Royal household may be considered the pinnacle moment in a Butler’s or private service professional’s career. Not for the salary, but definitely for the impact it will have in the future. Paul gave me his take on the importance of working in a Royal household.
“It depends, I was lucky. If you are fortunate enough to start your career at a young age and get into the Royal Household to do an apprenticeship, you learn the nuts and bolts of your trade. So as much as it is a beginning step you can either then spend your whole life and grow within the household or you can move on. For me, it was a very pivotal point and for my 5 years it was an extremely important part of my career and nothing will take away that time or experience.”
Apprenticeships have fallen out of favour with today’s wealthiest as they seek candidates with vast amounts of experience and/or qualifications relating to Household Management. So for more mature individuals who are keen to work inside private residences as a Butler it presents somewhat of a challenge to fit the criteria which is being asked for. There are various academies which operate around the world which provide an excellent opportunity for aspiring Butlers to get a head start without an previous experience working in a private household since apprenticeship are simply not an option unless you are still in your late teens/early twenties.
“The courses are worthwhile, it’s a beginning, a foundation. You would need to find the right Butler school and then with your first job you work with someone who is experienced and done it all – to learn. Again, it is all about being adaptable to change.
The Butler of today is somewhat different to the Butler of a bygone era. Today’s modern Butlers are now tasked with duties which would usually be delegated to a Personal or Executive Assistant. Paul explained that the word ‘Butler’ should encompass everything required by the principal, but mentioned that it should not be the sole focus of the position.
“A good Butler should be able to complete all of the duties once you understand your principal. That is what you do, you are the PA but you do not necessarily want to be swamped down with total PA responsibilities as that will take up too much of your time.”
After leaving the Royal household and later positions working with Film and TV producer, Aaron Spelling, and one of Britain’s wealthiest ever people, Sir Timothy Landon, Paul decided to move from private service into VIP hospitality and has remained in this sector for the last 8 years. Paul was involved in VIP guest services at the Phuket Yacht Club in Thailand in which the Butler background was very useful for as it gave Paul the understanding of the kind of clients he was dealing with. Then he moved into the operation side of hotel lifestyle and boutique hotels. Paul later went on to open the aptly named White Glove Consultancy which offers private service and management training to those seeking a head start into the world of private service and management.
“I was sat there trying to think of a name for my consultancy because I didn’t want to just offer Butler training, I wanted to do management, household management. The name ‘White Glove’ really covers the whole spectrum for me – anything to do with service and of course the name has a very big umbrella”
Paul is now the general manager of Coco Privé in the Maldives on the 1.4 hector, Kuda Hithi Island, which equates to two football pitches. Coco Privé is the only totally exclusive private residence in the Maldives and has won multiple luxury travel awards. Paul is responsible for the daily operations and has ultimate authority over this retreat of absolute grandeur. It seems like a far cry from the Butler who worked inside Buckingham Palace in the mid 1980’s.
“It’s a little bit like taking your own superyacht, $30,000 per night gets you 5 Butlers, and you get the island. The only people who are present on the island are the people that guests bring with them and the people who tend to their needs. We never speak about the guests that we cater for but we have entertained Hollywood stars, heads of state stay with us and all visitors have access to their own private jets. Money is no object”
If you are considering a household management course outside of the US and Europe, pay a visit to Paul’s consultancy website at http://www.whitegloveconsultancy.com – If your principal/employer is seeking somewhere different to spend some exclusive vacation time visit the ultra-luxurious Coco Privé island website at http://www.cocoprive.com