We’ve gathered five beloved butlers brought to life by television or film to analyze what each can teach us about the do’s and don’ts of private service. Let’s review:
Charles Carson (Downton Abbey)
Always the consummate professional, the head butler of Edwardian country house Downton Abbey never wavers in his pursuit of private service perfection. Appalled by the slightest deviation in decorum, Mr. Carson runs a tight ship and can be counted on to give sound advice upon request.
But while his rigid rule is something to be admired, we worry that this by-the-book butler isn’t allowing himself the opportunity to relax on occasion. Remembering that it’s important to balance work and play, we recommend a rowdy night at the nearby Red Lion public house where pal John Bates once tended bar.
Lumière (Beauty and the Beast)
While technically his household’s Maitre D’, Lumière earns the title of household manager due to his steadfast commitment to a castle virtually abandoned by inhabitants for ten years. Having been the unfortunate victim of his principal’s curse, the once-adult-male-turned-candelabra provides a prime example of maintaining a professional demeanour despite less-than-ideal circumstances.
If we can fault Lumière for anything, it’s encouraging the castle’s flatware to flail around and dance at dinnertime — adding unnecessary danger to an otherwise impeccable presentation. Lumière’s relationship with colleague Fifi the feather duster is also questionable, but we’ll let that one slide.
Geoffrey Butler (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
As the solo butler of the Banks family household, Geoffrey (whose last name is conveniently ‘Butler’) has a hard time keeping hostile thoughts to himself. Continuously expressing frustrations in the form of sassy backtalk, we can’t endorse Geoffrey’s unhinged outbursts against his principals.
However, the butler’s personal presentation is always spot-on and the household immaculate, so we can only imagine that behind the scenes Geoffrey is putting his best foot forward — though he would likely deny this fact with a clever little comeback.
Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth (Batman)
Beloved right-hand-man to Batman Bruce Wayne, Alfred the butler is the closest ally and most trusted confidant of the unconventional superhero. Yet as famous as Alfred is for being a poised provider of fine service, his own superpower seems to be in stretching out his resumé. In his history he’s taken on many roles for his employer including surgeon, spy, mechanic and father figure.
Alfred’s willingness to go above and beyond the parameters of his post is commendable, yet we encourage him to establish basic boundaries with his boss so he can stick to one dimension of duties and shine.
Albert Nobbs (Albert Nobbs)
Albert Nobbs is a butler to brag about. A beloved member of staff at the Morrison Hotel in late-19th-century Dublin, Nobbs is never one to complain and carries himself always with a quiet air of dignity. However, Nobbs also carries a secret — he is biologically female and has spent the last 30 years living as a man in order to succeed in the private service industry.
A victim of his time, the prevailing fact Nobbs proves is that a female can manage a high-end household just as well, if not better, than her male counterparts. And in this day and age, where females are flourishing in the private service industry, we trust that Nobbs would be proud and unafraid be both herself and the best butler a household could hope for.