How Should A Butler Handle An Unusual Request?

Updated: Jul 9

Butler carrying tray with shoes, bow tie and tie

Butlers, as the head of private household staff in larger houses, will have a closer relationship with their client than personal assistants in other professions. As a result, there may be requests and expectations of a butler that would not be seen in other professions, but at no point should a butler treat or believe this request is silly or stupid. Instead, it is important to be able to think quickly and perform that duty to the best of your ability or arrange to the best of your ability for the task to be undertaken on your behalf. Going above and beyond is an expected part of working for a prestigious household, and due to a vow of secrecy, many of the more unusual requests have not been disclosed. With that said, some former household staff members have revealed some unique insights into the types of requests that are given sometimes, with many of these revealed by former Royal Family butlers and servants. Sweep Carpets Clean To Let People Sleep One of the first tasks in the morning for Royal staff is to ensure the palace is spotless, but they also do not allow vacuums to be used before 10 am. The way out of this paradox is to manually sweep the carpets, which one article claims is “close to impossible” to do. Although when the staff do, they must make sure not to actually walk down the centre of the carpets, lest they wear the threads out or leave footprints. Both of these rules do make sense to ensure that expensive and in some cases, irreplaceable carpets are not damaged. Squeezing Toothpaste Personal care tasks vary depending on the household, but drawing a bath to a client’s expectations is not an entirely unusual task. However, if reports from a documentary are to believed, one Royal waits for a servant to squeeze toothpaste onto his toothbrush for him. This is not an isolated occurrence, as the same Royal also requests items to be fetched to him that are just a few feet away. Using The Right Language Diction and tone are important parts of a butler’s conduct, as they need to speak to their client in the correct way. This can, in some houses, extend to using suitably formal phrases. In a documentary on Royal Servants, one staff member recalls telling the Queen that her dinner was ready without using the appropriate formal expression “your majesty, dinner is served.”

Ironed Shoelaces Clothing is expected to be well taken care of, with perfect folds and creases. However, one unusual request noted was that a particular client requested that their shoelaces be pressed flat using an iron to keep them perfectly straight. Do Not Pass Go Many households have bonding sessions and games nights as well, but a rule that extends from the Royal Family to the rest of the household is that they are not allowed to play Monopoly, as revealed by Prince Andrew in 2008. The reason for this is about formality and image. Monopoly is a very fun game but is also particularly intense and can lead to heightened emotions and the game getting too vicious. This is an unusual request, but like many unusual requests comes from a logical position.

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