The Butler Did It, Or, The Butler Didn’t Do It

How do you know you can trust your butler? Have you ever played the murder mystery themed deduction board game Clue? It is evident, that all the way back to the 1940s, when Anthony Pratt invented the game, he already knew that the butler was capable of evil things.

I am not suggesting that the butlers of the Hamptons, which are many in number, are capable of murder, but I am suggesting that they may be willing to break the “Butlers Creed” if the conditions are right. In fact, with the economic downturn, many area butlers are being asked to take on expanded duties including looking after the kids, running errands and even walking the dog. This can make for some very unhappy butlers.

The earliest known butlers were primarily hired to care for and serve alcoholic beverages for the estate owners. On the East End, where the butler is traditionally the most senior worker, titles such as majordomo, administrator, house manager, manservant, staff manager, chief of staff, staff captain, estate manager and head of household staff are sometimes given. The precise duties of the employee will vary with the requirements of the individual employer.

Consider that Paolo Gabriele, the once-trusted butler of the 85-year-old German Pontiff, also known as Pope, was recently charged and convicted under Vatican law with the “aggravated theft” of confidential papers.

The documents at the heart of the case have lifted the lid on corruption at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church. The recent actions by Gabriele make one wonder if our very own Hamptons butlers are trustworthy.

I believe that in every Hamptons household there are things that go on that the residents of the home would not want made public. And so it is natural that the butler would see these things on a routine basis. If that information were to find its way into a tabloid magazine, it could not only be worth a lot of money to the source but also could be very damaging to
the employer.

My research suggests that a butler makes somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. By comparison, a single picture or story in a tabloid may garner the source up to $1 million or more.

I know what you are asking yourself: “Don’t the butlers have to sign a nondisclosure and confidentiality agreement?” Of course they do. But that doesn’t mean much these days. A third party, maybe even an attorney, can easily play the middleman and negotiate with the tabloid. The butler’s identity is thus protected and the real source of the leak is not revealed.

I believe most area butlers can be trusted. That is derived from my deep friendship with a former East End butler. His employer, at one time, was among the most celebrated people in the world. Sadly, this past July, my butler friend passed away. He was 82 years young and loved by all who knew him. I will never disclose his name or that of his employer, but I feel that I can share my knowledge of the lengths that he went to in order to protect his extended family.

Shortly before his death, he shared with me that in 1984, he helped remove a body from his employer’s Southampton residence. He indicated that the deceased’s cause of death was natural and that both he and his employer dragged the body from the house and then buried it in the back yard. The children of the house, ages 4 and 6 at the time, witnessed the death, removal and subsequent burial. The authorities were not notified. He indicated I was the only person he had ever shared this with.

This is the type of dedication we should expect from our Hamptons butlers, even if, as in the case of my servant friend, the body he was asked to remove and bury was just that of the aged family golden retriever.

My friend was recently buried in the borough of Rotherham, in the County of South Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. I could not attend the services, but fittingly, all living members of his former Southampton employer’s family were present at the graveside.

I salute the service and discretion of all East End butlers.

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