As Downton Abbey heads to the big screen, we ask what does a 21st century butler do?

Lucy Challenger gives an insight into the modern day butler…

This month prepare to be transported back in time as Downton Abbey: A New Era arrives in the cinemas.

Although this eagerly awaited sequel follows the Crawley family as they prepare to embrace the 1930s, it still falls to long-suffering butler Mr Carson to ensure everything runs like clockwork behind the scenes. Fast forward nearly a century and Polo & Tweed is still helping clients all over the world find their perfect candidate.

Today however the type of butler requested by the A listers, royalty and captains of industry that make up the agency’s core clientele are those with multiple skill sets – and with six-figure salaries to match.

For the last six years, Lucy Challenger, CEO of Polo & Tweed, has been both training and sourcing the crème de la crème for her clients, giving her a unique insight into this most demanding of jobs.

The role of today’s butler has evolved to encompass myriad duties, from the front of house and welcoming guests to planning, designing and executing dinner parties and events, chauffeuring, shopping or even fixing the loo! Small wonder therefore that it can take years, and sometimes decades, to master the art.

Whilst at times working as a butler can be a glamorous job – think superyachts, stately piles and fast cars – those at the top of their profession work extremely long hours, necessitating sacrifices in their personal lives.

Polo & Tweed has worked with Middle Eastern, Chinese, European and American clients. Some households like a traditional approach with their butler being the head of the household; others prefer them to become part of the family. Ultimately the most sought after are those who can be extremely flexible and above all discrete.

Over the last decade the agency has also seen a rising demand for female butlers, particularly in the Middle East where it would be deemed inappropriate for a male butler to serve/work for the female principal.

Needless to say, Lucy and her team have received their fair share of unusual requests, whether for a female butler who has to be a trained yoga expert and flower arranger to someone who could teach an embassy’s security staff the art of silver service. Not to mention the 10 days’ notice they were given to find 45 butlers to fly to Riyadh for Saudi Arabia’s first ever music festival.

All in all, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘You rang my lord’!

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