Role & Responsibilities
The historic connotation is that a Butler is male. However, more recently men and women have taken on the role. Among the domestic staff of a private household, the role of a Butler (sometimes referred to as a House Manager) carries its own high status with it. They may be responsible for managing other household staff, as well as household budgets and finances. Hybrid Butler/PA or Butler/Private Secretary roles also exist.
A household with a family and lots of properties is likely to have different requirements to that of a single business person. So the actual responsibilities of a Butler will differ greatly between households. But perhaps the most important rule to remember is that discretion is paramount. A Butler will need to be multi-skilled and wear many hats. As the Financial Times reported “Wealthy owners of multiple homes need someone as adept with an Excel spreadsheet as they are with a bottle opener.”
A Butler will act as the right-hand man or woman to their employer. They will offer support both within the household and on a more personal level. This is another reason why during Covid the demand for Butlers grew. Who wouldn’t want that extra level of luxury, comfort and support in uncertain times?
What skills does a Butler need?
On a practical level, a Butler’s job is to anticipate their employer’s needs before they’ve even realised themselves. They must leave nothing to chance. A Butler must be unflappable, with great attention to detail and exceptionally high standards. In one day they may go from greeting and serving guests, to immaculate table laying, to overseeing the wine cellar, to acting as a personal valet and possibly some chauffeuring.
Butlers should be aware of their employer’s business and be able to have conversations with them or their guests about current affairs. Personality and character traits are just as important as the more traditional skills. Given the role is such a personal one, the chemistry has to be right.