I can't specify the houses or families (if I did I wouldn't be able to say much). I started in the kitchen and finished working as an under-butler.

** Edit: stepping out for a bit now - will answer whatever is posted when i come back

**Edit: been a fun few hours. I have to get to work now. Thanks for the interest, everyone!

Comments: 361 • Responses: 57  • Date: 

wildevidence167 karma

In the movie The Queen of Versailles, the mom buys 60 chicken nuggets from a McDonalds while in the back of a limo. I now equate wealth with the amount of chicken nuggets a person will purchase at one time.

On a scale of 5 - 120 nuggets, how many chicken nuggets would you expect your employers to purchase at one time?

formerdomestic390 karma

the nugget factory - and then you would pay them.

nallix91 karma

How does modern service compare to what it was a century ago, as depicted in popular shows like Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs?

formerdomestic161 karma

You do call them by their title (you grace for a duke), you do wait for them to come down the stairs if you are going up. One time the duchess walked into our coffee break to tell someone something and we all stood up when she came in (I did because everyone else did). But they often drive themselves places, the kids are like normal kids, they don't dress in expensive clothing on normal days, they let their couches get worn out before they send them for upholstering.

takeandbake84 karma

What did you do in a typical day as a butler? Most people really have no idea except what we see on TV and movies (myself included)

formerdomestic203 karma

Morning: turn off the alarms, sort the mail, lay new fires if they used any of the fire places the night before, squeeze oranges for oj, make coffee, set the breakfast table, lay out the mail in holders and place them at everyone's spots at the table, let the dogs out, take the dishes back to the kitchen when they are done, find out what the lunch menu is, polish any silver they used at breakfast and put at away for the next day, bring out any silver and porcelain that the kitchen needs for lunch, check the drinks and snack tables, coffee break, walk the dogs again.

Lunch: make more coffee for lunch, set the table for lunch, deliver the silver and porcelain to the kitchen, bring the food up from the kitchen to the dining room, serve at the sideboard for the first part of lunch, when they finish, clean up, check menu for dinner, put away lunch silver and porcelain, get out whatever the kitchen needs for dinner, lunch, odd jobs (anything from changing the flag to running a chair into the upholsterer), leave vases out for the gardener to put fresh flowers in, long break.

Dinner: back in uniform at 5pm, deliver the flowers that the gardener left, deliver laundry from laundry rooms to bedrooms, deliver the silver and porcelain to the kitchen, set the table, start the fire in the anteroom (for after dinner), check chocolates and drinks in anteroom, check the breakfast table to see if linens need changing, pull out linens for the dinner table (for after dinner), serve the meal, eat staff meal when they have dessert, clean up the dining room after staff meal, clean porcelain and silver from dinner and put it back in the strong room, set alarm for strong room, pull their friends' cars up to the front door if they had guests, set alarms at 10pm, go home.

Rinse and repeat.

feminaprovita50 karma

Freshly squeezed orange juice every day! That's totally the best part IMO. Do you squeeze enough for yourself or other staff members to have a glass, too?

formerdomestic73 karma

Yes. We weren't supposed to, but "just taste testing".

latticusnon22 karma

Why weren't you supposed to? That sounds kinda stingy.

formerdomestic46 karma

I never really had a good explanation of that. Just because.

GeoGoddess25 karma

I'm curious as to why your duties include those relating to the family pet. Does the family also take on those responsibilities also?

formerdomestic73 karma

Yes they took care of their dogs, but like everything else, the staff are expected to do the dirty parts and the family do the fun parts.

CitizenTed60 karma

Did you help the Man of the House out of tough scrapes, like when his Aunt Agatha insisted he marry Madeline Basset, a girl who writes poems about the stars being God's daisy chain?

formerdomestic57 karma


xlxhopexlx54 karma

How did you get hired?

Any interesting perks of the job besides the pay?

formerdomestic109 karma

I got hired as a cook at first through a job posting in a magazine. I did my apprenticeship in the kitchen, and then moved on to learning how to be a butler.

Some neat perks: the kitchen provides all food int the house - for staff and the family. If you live in the house, you only need to buy things like milk, snacks, fruits and stuff because the rest is provided. All uniforms laundered and provided. Housekeeping in staff flats once a week (just vacuuming and dusting). No cost for hydro. Travel with the family to their other houses in Irl and Fr.

moumouren41 karma

Why did you have to buy fruits and milk?

formerdomestic54 karma

any snack that you want in your own flat, you have to buy. The meals, however, come from the household kitchen.

KoNy_BoLoGnA48 karma

How much do you get paid? Do you like your job?

formerdomestic83 karma

Pay was ok (c. 20, 000 GBP) because they provided food, living quarters, uniform, and hydro. They even provided a staff car. I was in house, but the butler had his own house with a nice garden and people to cut the lawn and everything.

TJBAM59 karma

You keep referring to hydro, I don't know what that means in this context.

formerdomestic93 karma


tacsatduck13 karma

What is the retirement situation like?

formerdomestic39 karma

This is always settled at the time of staff getting hired, but normally the retired staff get a house in the estate villages. So they don't pay for housing, upkeep, and get a small pension. That is really something that takes about 20 or so yrs of service, or more. Even staff who worked in the estate shops had some form of housing if they wanted it.

InTheNameOfTheMoon47 karma

Thank you for doing this AMAA. As an American, I find this extremely interesting and a have several questions:

1) On average, how many people were on staff at the estate?

2) Did the family, the younger generation in particular, tend to only socialize with people of the same "class" or did they* have friends who were "average?" For instance, did one of the children in university ever bring home a friend or SO from a working class family? If so, did those friendships/relationships with poorer people ever seem forced and/or was there ever a "gold digger" type situation?

3) Was the staff fiercely protective of the family or did staff like to spread gossip among themselves and people outside the estate?

4) Would you say that your family was well-liked by the community? Why or why not?

Sorry for all of the questions.

*Edit: "they" used to say "that"

formerdomestic47 karma

1) For truly large English stately homes, the number on the estate can vary considerably. Some stately homes are not far from recievership, while other families have done a masterful job of turning the property into a tourist/events location. If the public come in, that requires all kinds of additional staff: cleaners, restaurant staff, car park attendants etc. So it can depend. In the house I worked as an underbutler in, there were about 5 housekeepers (they cleaned the public route as well), three in the kitchen plus "cook" (the chef is always called "cook", not his name, and not chef), two butler, two in the laundry room, and one nanny. In the house I cooked in, there were many, many staff even down to a part-tme clock winder!

2) they do socialize with the same class. They have a good nose for diggers.

3) never anything fierce - always cool, calm, and collected, with a personality that moves between personal and public talk with ease. Lots of the staff related to the public side of the house wanted to know about the family; they were the ones we would have to be looking out for if we were going to talk about them.

4) Nobles in big houses like that have to do a lot to really win locals over. Most don't try all that hard. The family I cooked for were loved by the community, but the couple I was a butler for were not as well known.

JustHereToFFFFFFFUUU44 karma

Working in somebody's own home sounds like a position of considerable personal familiarity; were there any tasks or situations that made you feel awkward?

formerdomestic69 karma

I had to take their laundry down to the laundry lady, but she had to actually wash and fold everything so I always reminded myself that that would be more awkward.

strudelsticks41 karma

What's the oddest task you've had to perform?

Do you chat with the family, or is it a more professional relationship?

formerdomestic76 karma

nothing too odd. Mostly work related to the holdings and furniture of the house, setting up for parties, taking inventories, walking dogs ... Occasionally you chat to the family and they get to know you a bit, but you are definitely aware that they are dukes and duchesses and you are the cook or butler.

an_internet_denizen40 karma

What was the average day like for your masters? The kids included? Did they just do whatever they wanted or were they just as regimented as your schedule?

formerdomestic140 karma

We never called them masters - just "their graces". Their day, from what I can tell, was wake up, have breakfast with the kids, he would go to the estate office and do estate stuff, she would go to her office (in the house) and do e-mails etc., they come in for lunch, whatever they want in the aft, and evenings mostly around the house doing whatever. The kids were all school-aged, so their schedules were hectic. They know the rest of the house operates on a strict schedule so they kind of try to keep on schedule. The cook from 30 or so years before, so the story goes, once yelled at the duke and his whole hunting party for showing up for dinner an hour late - and he didn't get fired because they liked his cooking too much!

jakeis3840 karma

Did you get time off or did you just work all the time

formerdomestic70 karma

1.5 days a week off, start at 5:45 am, end at 9:30 ish, but about 4-5 hrs off in the afternoon sometimes. When they travelled, housekeepers, butlers and the kitchen were on rotation so that whoever went last time stayed back and was on light duties while they were away. When they were gone, if the kids were gone too, we didn't have to wear our uniforms either.

Twitch9239 karma

Did you ever find their Batcave?

formerdomestic139 karma

I went looking, but only got as far as the wine cellar.

kingkongownz35 karma

Did you feel like a part of the family at all?

formerdomestic90 karma

so so. they are nice to you on your birthday, they get you presents for x-mas and never expect anything, you really get into the holidays because the house is decorated and the kitchen always makes special food. But I have to say, when visitors go home and the house is closed, stately homes are lonely places! Beautiful but quiet and a bit eerie. What you hear about needing lots of people to make a house like that feel "lived in" is really true.

d7668d18 karma

Did you ever get them presents?

formerdomestic58 karma

Only food presents - they really do not like their staff spending money on them.

Phishguy34 karma

Did the job ever make you feel inferior or affect your self confidence? Or did you feel proud to serve? Also, how does your own personal family fit in? Sounds like it much time for wife and kids.

formerdomestic59 karma

I was young at the time so I didn't mind not having a wife and kids. The butler had a wife who worked in the estate office and they had their own house. Its not so bad for them. I didn't feel inferior - when their friends aren't there, they are really normal people. They don't acknowledge you when their friends are around, though.

TurkeyOfJive15 karma

Should I infer then that their friends did not treat their servants in similar ways or that's just how people of that caliber act towards the servants when their friends are about? An unwritten rule if you will.

formerdomestic48 karma

Just how they act when their friends are around. It doesn't make you feel bad though; just reminds you that its show time.

justrelax224 karma

Learn any interesting secrets?

formerdomestic45 karma

trade secrets or family secrets? We found a small diamond tiara in a box that was being moved to eventually be thrown out. That was a secret from everyone.

TJBAM21 karma

So you got to keep it..??

formerdomestic41 karma

no lol - just it had been hidden and forgotten since the 1950's. It went into the "strong room" where they kept most of their precious objects.

TurkeyOfJive14 karma

What kind of precious objects would a family such as that have? Mainly jewelry?

formerdomestic18 karma

Some but mostly silver and gilt objects used to decorate tables and for serving.

lizzielotus23 karma

What's your take on Downton Abbey? Any similarities still to this day i.e. 'downstairs/upstairs' drama?

formerdomestic43 karma

I have only seen clips. The staff seem to be acting their parts a little more dramatically than is really the case. I have seen Gosford Park and thought the staff were very realistic in that movie.

mariox1922 karma

Did you ever work with any domestics who had worked in the homes of nouveau riche, rather than aristocrats—rich Americans or something like that? I wonder at how the non-aristocratic rich carry themselves and relate to their staff, whether there is any difference, and if these rich people were ever looked down upon or snickered at by those who worked for aristocracy. I ask because I remember reading once about some well-established butler who came to America (to work at the White House, if I remember correctly) and how he sighed that, before he retired, it would be nice to work again for a "gentleman."

formerdomestic35 karma

English butlers always told me that American butlers "just aren't taught service". No one ever could define what it meant, but I took it as snobbishness. I even heard things like "oh he is from a commonwealth country so he'll understand" which, to me, seemed to be saying that English or former British Empire (Indian, Canadian, Oz) are good butlers because they understand the monarchy and nobility, but never Americans. It is so based on nonsense that it's sad.

We did have the owner of a very well-known American lady's apparel company come and stay with the duke. He was ok, but you could tell he was a bit starstruck seeing a fully-functioning stately home for once. They were nice to me, but other staff couldn't stand them. We didn't meet their butler until they sent him back to collect a couple things they had forgotten (they didn't travel with him). He seemed nice.

Theban_Prince22 karma

I have worked in a high class hotel as a waiter, so I can understand some concepts of your work.So I am going to ask your worst work related embarrassment , like if you dropped a cold glass of water on a Dukes head, or stepped on a Duchess dress tail.

formerdomestic74 karma

I put finger prints in the dukes peaches when I picked them one day. Usually the garden staff were supposed to, but no one was available that day so I picked them myself. He thought they looked like a dog mangled them because my finger prints were in the fuzz, and told me while yelling at me. That was probably the worst I got it.

str8faced33322 karma

What kind of vacuum did you use?

formerdomestic27 karma

in stately homes, butlers rarely vacuum. That is the assistant housekeepers job.

str8faced33313 karma

My bad. Do you know what kind they used?

formerdomestic49 karma

there were a few, but i definitely remember one of the housekeepers getting this one when her old one broke down.

the_weak_sauce38 karma

formerdomestic21 karma


TJBAM22 karma

What industry were the owners in? How did they get their wealth? What did the mom do all day if you were the ones cooking, cleaning, etc?

formerdomestic43 karma

they have an estate of many thousands of acres plus another residence in Ireland and France, so I suppose you could say they are land and property managers. They take on revitalization projects around the estates which can include anything from garden management, crop management, village stuff (the estates have villages on them, so deciding what to renovate, what to sell, who gets what house etc.), estate produce shops etc. So they are actually very busy.

an_internet_denizen18 karma

So they inherited it? I'm an American but not a 1 percenter so this idea of inheriting vast amounts of wealth confuses me.

formerdomestic39 karma

yes inherited.

HikerMiker19 karma

What made you leave the butlering business if you are former?

formerdomestic46 karma

I was getting close to 30 and wanted to get a degree and a "real world" job. I got lonely being behind the gate in a stately home all the time.

GarlicAftershave18 karma

Clearly the job of butler has a lot of tropes attached to it in the Anglosphere. How did you feel about all the cliches and other assorted cultural baggage?

formerdomestic66 karma

I realized that butlers are the ones who bring it on themselves. When people complain about rigid formality surrounding the royal family, and by extension, nobles, I realized that the "in thing" if you're a noble is to be relaxed, cool, calm, and collected, doing garden stuff and what have you, while the butlers and household staff are the ones who stand around and criticize this person for not dressing properly, or that person for giving shitty flowers on their arrival to dinner, or someone else for this or that. It really isn't the nobility that insist on it, but they also know that servants are uptight as anything and do nothing to stop it. I think they surround themselves with rings of super uptight people to filter their contact with the world - at least in the domestic sphere.

Gravy-Leg__17 karma

Were there any parts of the house that were off limits?

formerdomestic33 karma

no for butlers and the head housekeeper, but there were zones that people were allowed to be in. Also related to the house being open to the public, so some areas are alarmed to allow the family and public to be totally separate.

Whole_new_me17 karma


formerdomestic29 karma

1) I worked as a cook in the house and that was where I learned the basics of how those places work. As an under butler, the butler taught me things about etiquette for the "upstairs" part of the house, titles, what to do in x or y situation.

2) Bad or poorly-trained staff reflect poorly on themselves and their employer. Household staff at that level are supposed to really know their stuff (like a maitre d' as opposed to a server at a diner). If you screw up, you look dumb, and you make the house look like it is run by amateurs. You also make your boss look cheap because it seems asif they got cheap, poorly-trained staff.

3)They spoke French and English. Same with me - the butler didn't speak French, so I was always assigned to French guests if they visited.

j_one_k17 karma

Did you learn anything, or make any connections, useful in your future employment? (either what you're doing now or longer-term plans)

formerdomestic26 karma

I teach at a hotel school now and am finishing a history dissertation, so I do think it helped me get to where I am today.

martelerlamer14 karma

You mention your uniform - What did you have to wear on the job?

formerdomestic29 karma

Bblack shoes, black pants, black tails, a choice of two types of under coat, white shirt, black bow tie (unless very formal then white bow tie).

jamasiel14 karma

Are there any media depictions which capture it well? I love the movie Remains of the Day, for example, but it honestly seems incredibly weird to a stateside middle-class ne'er-do-well.

formerdomestic23 karma

the best is Gosford Park in my opinion. The actors in that movie seem to really have nailed their parts: professional, humble around the family, switch to "downstairs" mode the second they walk through the "green baize door" (as all houses like that call the doors that separate family and servant areas).

cheerbearsmiles12 karma

How big was the house/estate?

formerdomestic28 karma

House was hundreds of rooms. The estates are many thousands of acres.

Ultra_HR11 karma

What was the extent of your duties? By which I mean, what sort of stuff could the family ask you to do before you'd tell them you were unwilling to? (And how would you phrase it if you were absolutely unwilling to do something they asked?)

formerdomestic36 karma

Anything that might make your uniform dirty was a job you could pass on to someone else. That is probably the best way to sum it up.

Upsfedex110 karma

Has anyone you've worked with ever been fired? How does that happen?

formerdomestic15 karma

Hummm ... no, actually. I imagine it would go not too bad, but have never seen it happen.

soapyeggs10 karma

What was your social life like outside the job? Did you live in the same building as the family?

formerdomestic22 karma

I lived in the same building, but with separate and very far removed entrances/parking areas). Social life with other staff exists, but otherwise it is always easier to go and see people rather than have them come to see you. A bit stifling.

mopsarethebomb8 karma

Did anything you did in your daily duties carry over in to what you do in your own home, like did anything seem like something that would make you relaxed in your own home if it was done properly after working in such a field?

formerdomestic19 karma

It is the type of job that makes you able to picture everything down to the last detail before it happens. I teach post-secondary now and am one of the best-organized people I know.

brezzle7 karma

did you ever witness some sort of crazy thing that the head of household and wife, or any other couple were doing sexually?

to not sound like a perve: did you accidentally walk in on anything that was really awkward or disturbing?

formerdomestic13 karma

nope - the house is big. they keep that stuff to themselves.

itsjoao7 karma

Did you establish a friendship with your boss, or were you ever cold with each other?

formerdomestic15 karma

With the duke, a professional relationship. With the rest of the family, professional/friendly.

Bat_turd6 karma

Carson or Bates?

formerdomestic6 karma

I think bates is the one from Gosford Park? I preferred him.

DHaze7 karma

Actually I think hes referring to Mrs Bates and Carson from Downton Abbey...Carson is the butler and Bates is like...the top footman or something?

formerdomestic7 karma

ohhhh - yes I don't watch downtown abbey. I know its shocking, but I have never really been able to get into it.

NickolasPach6 karma

You mentioned a "strong room". Is this their safe? Can you describe it? Have you been inside of it?

formerdomestic18 karma

It is a safe. Hidden. I don't want to say much about it, but it is like a bank vault.

Tacomaverick1 karma

What was your pay like?

formerdomestic1 karma

pay and employment perks are outlined a little further up.

KaiyashEyelash-11 karma

Have you ever been asked to perform ahem special tasks?.......Inthebedroom.... EDIT: Damn guys take it easy, it was an honest question.

formerdomestic4 karma

never - not expected to clean up anything weird after. They would have to look you in the eye after, so they try to keep that stuff to themselves.