The British butler is an archetypal image, popularised across the world in television shows such as Jeeves & Wooster, Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey. Trustworthy, resourceful and discreet, they have historically been featured in the households of the British aristocracy.
Despite many tightening the purse strings due to the current global economic crisis, butler recruitment agencies in London have reported growing demand for British staff across the world, from the oligarchs of Russia to the sheikhs of the Middle East. Recruitment agency Bespoke Bureau alone has supplied 345 butlers this year, double the amount in 2011. Sara Westin Rahamani, director of Bespoke Bureau, told Reuters why hiring a British manservant is currently in vogue across the globe.
"We have a huge demand of butlers and in our economy or in our market there's no such thing as a recession. It's happening to other people but not our market so we're very fortunate in that respect. The rich people, our clients, are not getting poorer, they are getting richer," she said.
The old money aristocracy might be eschewing hiring butlers, but across the world the number of domestic staff from the UK is rising. Bespoke Bureau reported that last year 80 per cent of butlers they supplied went to work overseas. Lesley O'Hare, one of those currently training at the London recruitment agency, explained why she had chosen the vocation.
"Well, I have worked as a PA [Personal Assistant] most of my life and it's all about organizing and providing a service to the employer and as you progress in being a PA the job becomes more erratic let's say, or the requests become more erratic so I think it's probably a good time in my life to actually be trained as a butler and be able to give, provide the whole package," she said.
The reputation of butlers worldwide was tarnished recently when the former butler of Pope Benedict XVI, Paolo Gabrielle, was found guilty by a Vatican court of stealing papal documents and sentenced to 18 months in prison. George Teleford, an instructor at the school who has served as a butler for 30 years, noted that discretion is a crucial aspect of the job.
"Our very first priority as a butler is discretion; you know discretion is very important. Discretion is loyal, if you're loyal to your principle as we call it, you know, its trust is very much the bond that you build up," he said.
Written and presented by Alfred Joyner