Heritage

No Selfies Allowed: Royal Butler Reveals Service Rules at Buckingham Palace

Off-duty, butlers sometimes get to party with royalty.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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From the mouths of those who have dedicated their lives to serving the British crown come intimate glimpses into a very secret world.

In the past, we’ve heard stories of the royals daily diets and their roles as employers. Now, another former butler has come forward to talk about the working life at Buckingham Palace, which is much more systematic than most imagine. Currently based in Australia, Richard Kerrigan appeared on The Morning Show, where he talked about his experience as a butler to Her Majesty.

If royals do everything by the book, so do their staff. Here’s what we’ve learned about service protocol in the palace:

Table settings mustn’t be a centimeter out of place.

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Kerrigan's tasks included laying out the great table, ensuring that each dish and piece of silverware was precisely in its place by taking measurements with a ruler. These grand functions easily accommodated about 180 guests seated in a big “horseshoe-shaped table,” he said. Kerrigan distinctly recalled servicing an event where President George W. Bush was the guest of honor.

Follow the traffic light system for service.

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To avoid disturbance during an important announcement or the Queen’s entrance, service must follow red and green traffic lights. “We’re not allowed to go in when the red light's on… [during] any speeches,” Kerrigan told the show’s hosts. When the green light pings, service continues.

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These functions, though quite packed with guests, maintain impeccable service with a clever ratio of staff members per guest. For 180 guests, Kerrigan estimated “four staff per four or eight guests so you can imagine the level of service.” 

Sorry, no selfies allowed.

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The former butler revealed he once tried to sneak in a selfie while outfitted in his black-and-white “penguin suit” but it was deleted by security right away. Phones aren’t allowed to be used during service hours, which is probably why we never get to see or hear from palace workers on social media. Each of the staff members has to go through metal detectors.

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But then, one has to remember that members of the royal family are regular people, too.

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After serving at the Queen’s many banquets, Kerrigan was part of the staff at Prince Charles and Camila’s wedding. For a young lad like Kerrigan, he found the gig to be an “amazing experience.” Being a high-profile event, security measures were heightened but Kerrigan said he adjusted to it. “You kind of hope to relax and just make sure you know they’re normal people,” he said. He also revealed that brothers Prince William and Prince Harry are quite pleasant.

Butlers have to be multitaskers.

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Of course, there’s more to butlers than just table service. Former under butler Grant Harrold told Royal Central in 2013 that they are nothing like how butlers are portrayed in Downton Abbey. “One minute you could be serving a table, the next, acting as a valet or looking after guests, children, or even family pets,” Harrold recounted. He worked in the household of the Prince of Wales for at least seven years and has since become an etiquette consultant. He founded Nicholas Veitch, a company that arranges etiquette classes, and has started a school for butlers.

It's not all work and no play.

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There are a number of anecdotes that Harrold cannot share due to confidentiality restrictions but he says he was once invited to the famed Ghillies Ball at Balmoral Castle, where he had the honor of dancing with Queen Elizabeth herself. 

h/t: Daily Mail

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About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Features Editor
Hannah is originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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