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The evolution of the butler over the years

A butler is the most senior worker in a private and usually prestigious household. Sometimes the butler can be referred to as house manager, staff manager, chief of staff, majordomo, staff captain or head of household depending on the employer’s needs and on the specific duties performed.

The butler: origins

The butler, usually identified as a well-presented man, was historically seen as the highest position within the household. The butler, who was usually associated with the wealthiest families, was also in charge of the wine cellar (interestingly enough, the world butler derives from the Anglo-Norman “buteler”, which means “bottle”) and was responsible of key decisions about staff and daily running of the household.

The butler today: key duties and responsibilities

Nowadays, the butler is a symbol of wellbeing in private households. The role of the butler is quite multifaceted as he is normally required to specialise in a wide range of duties depending on the employer’s lifestyle and requirements: from general housekeeping responsibilities to admin tasks (bills management, diary management, events organisation, etc.) and from HR (hiring and overseeing staff, managing rotas, etc.) to security and chauffeur duties. Despite the duties performed, the butler should always be loyal, discrete and respect the confidentiality and privacy of the employer. Additionally, butlers are required to be totally flexible in regards with schedule and tasks, and should be patient, welcoming and adaptable with exceptional communication skills. Last but not least, butlers need to have extremely high attention to detail, be able to prioritise tasks and always stay calm under pressure. The skills and knowledge of a butler or house manager may vary considerably depending on their previous experience and on the size of the property they are responsible for. Nowadays, there are 2 main types of butler: the traditional butler and the modern butler. Let’s examine these 2 types of roles in the household sector.

The traditional butler

Who is the first professional who comes to your mind when you think of a butler?

Most likely, you will be thinking of the traditional British butler, a multi-skilled professional with outstanding knowledge of etiquette, silver service and reception. Traditional butlers are required to be extremely knowledgeable about wines and spirits and oversee the wine cellar and liqueur inventory. They are usually responsible for the arrangement of parties and formal occasions, as well as daily food and beverage service. In terms of outfit, the traditional butler typically wears a classic butler suit, and particularly morning coat for daytime and tailcoat, bow tie and gloves for the evening. In most cases, the traditional butler will be male (whilst women are not encouraged to apply) and have a formal training at a butler or service school, being very similar to the butler portrayed in British films and TV series. Finally, the traditional butler has wardrobe and clothing management skills and can act as a valet when required.

The modern butler

Alongside traditional butler’s duties, modern butlers are also in charge of several other household responsibilities. For instance, the modern-style butler’s role is often interchangeable and flexible as he may be required to act as a personal assistant, chauffeur, cook, or event organiser. Unlike the traditional butler, today’s modern butlers come from different backgrounds (for instance military or professional sports background) and do not have a formal butler uniform but instead, they are often encouraged to wear a business casual outfit or even jeans depending on the employer’s guidelines. Other ways in which the modern butler differs from the traditional butler are the gender (whilst traditional butlers tend to be almost exclusively men, about 10% of modern butlers are women) and the fact that the modern butler is typically extremely teach-savvy and performs duties such as researching the Internet and downloading employer’s favourite podcasts.


With the wide selection of butlers available nowadays, you can rest assured you will find the perfect professional butler for your household depending on your individual needs. As an established household staff agency, we are able to offer a fully bespoke service to ensure we match the best staff with you when it comes to hiring your next top calibre butler. If you are looking for an experienced butler or house manager, please call us and a member of our dedicated recruitment team will confidentially discuss your requirements and help you find your perfect staff solution.

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