The butler has long held a fascination for the world. Imperturbable, dependable and honest are just some of the sobriquets accorded to this almost mythical figure. He, for that was the case, was originally the key holder of the cellar, and bouteiller from French, was his original title. Over the centuries the butler’s duties and importance have changed and the position now carries a large responsibility.
The diminution of grand houses post-Second World War ensured that the demand for skilled domestics plummeted only recovering in recent years as the nouveau riche began showing its wealth by ostentatious means, domestic staff included. This renewed interest in engaging private staff has given the butler profession a huge boost and has led to changes in the butler’s work. Formerly the head of the domestic household and confidant of the master of the house the butler nowadays must be familiar with tasks ranging from I.T problems to organising renovations to obeying the rules of protocol to doing the school run.
Modern butlers must be excellent managers above all and not just capable in the dining room. A butler may find himself or herself, more women are attracted to the profession than before, in a variety of posts worldwide. Cultural sensitivity and a good general culture are as important as an excellent service manner and the ability to evolve in one’s position is paramount as patience is perhaps a butler’s ultimate quality. Being able to lead a team in a firm yet considerate is another prime attribute which in itself stems from good organisation.
It is however – service to the principal that is of greatest importance to a butler and ensuring that this comes first is the duty; everything else is secondary but many questions will be asked if any of them have been neglected!