Jean Perry Writes
How did you get started?
“I’d just finished a fine arts degree from Leeds. I came across the Right Hand Employment Agency. I went on an interview and was asked about my experience.
‘What experience do you have?’ the lady of the house asked me.
“None, madam,” I answered. “She promptly introduced me to her head man, the ‘Major,’ who, when I showed up said, ‘Thank God! Prince Phillip arrives at eight.’”
Wait. The Prince Phillip. The Queen’s husband?
“Yes. The Major told me: ‘He doesn’t like fuss.’”
“Which, I knew, would be twice the fuss for everyone around him.
“The next morning the Major gave me instructions: ‘As you may know, ladies take a tray in their rooms (for breakfast). Men come down.’
“I served the Prince and asked if there was anything else he wanted. He didn’t reply. I asked again. No response. I went to the Major and asked if Prince Philip might be a bit deaf?”
‘You mean you spoke to him?’ the Major asked me, with wide eyes and raised eyebrows. Royals cannot hear you, unless they ask the question,’ he explained.
What are some other memorable experiences you’ve had?
“Another assignment I enjoyed was working for a wonderful woman and her husband who lived above the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis at 1040 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Every night she and her husband would dress for dinner. When weather permitted I set the table on their terrace which looked down onto the Metropolitan Museum of Art; specifically, into the Temple of Dendur exhibit. How thrilling it was to enjoy that view, and that apartment.
“I feel I’ve been very lucky. I’ve seen a lot of the world. I’ve also met some extraordinary people without being qualified to do so, because when you’re running someone else’s life, you come across people you wouldn’t normally meet.”
What do employers look for when hiring a butler?
“Everybody wants the same thing,” English says, “Trustworthy employees. You have to have the integrity to keep private things private.”
There are several schools that teach how to butler. A few are listed below:
American Butler School
The International Institute of Modern Butlers
The International Butler Academy
Potter Poppins Academy
Is butlering a good career for people interested in the service industry?
“I do think it’s a good career for young people, but they have to enjoy surrealism because their job might be to look after the foibles of someone they might completely disagree with—their boss.”
Can you explain?
“As a butler, you’re really a stage manager. You’re putting on a show for your employer that includes: parties and dinners; great dinners for six to eight people, intimate, relaxed and you are the invisible person in the room who has produced everything!”