Becoming a butler is probably not seen as a typical career choice. If a child is asked what they want to be when they grow up, they are more likely to answer Batman than Alfred, his trusty servant. Many would perceive the butler as a dying breed; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The demand for British butlers has grown globally in recent years. They are seen as refined, dignified, deferential, reserved when needed and most importantly, able to adapt to any given situation without giving way to emotion or anxiety.
This age-old profession has certainly been given a new lease of life, as many demand their very own Jeeves. However, what is clear is that the butler's world has evolved as thousands of butlers now work at hotel resorts or in consulting roles that look only a little like those portrayed in the television show Downton Abbey or period movies such as Gosford Park. However, like Mr Carson on Downton Abbey, there is still great demand for their butler work overseeing private households and large estates.
The core role itself has also changed dramatically in the past half-century. As household staff numbers have shrunk, the butler’s remit has grown. Now they may cover an array of jobs, from chauffeuring to assisting on country shoots. Instead of polishing silver or greeting guests, the butler may oversee the installation of a new heating system, pay all the household bills, manage a raft of workers who maintain gardens, pools and all kinds of security systems, and orchestrate parties and events.
So what defines a modern butler?
Loyalty - Probably the most desirable quality in a butler has always been and always will be loyalty.
Discretion - Privy to things that others will not know, a butler needs to be a trusted confidante. Always remembering that with knowledge comes power, and with power comes responsibility is paramount.
Diplomacy - There will also be occasions, some awkward, where there will be a need for a diplomatic solution.
Adaptability - Butlers live a life of anticipation and one of the most fundamental, although toughest, aspects of being a butler remains having to second-guess their employer. It will constantly be a case of what, when, how and where.
Problem-solving - A butler’s primary role is to make their employer’s life easier. They will need to navigate the trials and tribulations of the modern world in an effective and efficient style. Significantly, it is as much about how they behave when they don’t know something, as when you do.
Etiquette - All butlers are expected to be well versed in etiquette and to be able to conduct themselves with a suitable demeanour.
Multi-tasking - The ability to handle many projects simultaneously is vital.
Invisibility - The goal is not recognition, in fact when they are not noticed they will have been most successful.
Hard-work - A good old-fashioned work ethic will be needed by any modern-day butler.
One thing is for sure, a butler’s day is never boring.