The butler name
– from the old French Bouteillier: the cup-bearer or the one in charge of the bottles.
Through a complicated process that had to do with the loss of gentlemen servants and changes in social organization, the Butler slowly rose to be in charge not only of the buttery, but also of the ewery (where the napkins and basins for washing and shaving were kept) and the pantry (which did supply the bread, butter, cheese and other basic provisions), and later still he took over the cellerer’s duties of looking after the wine, which indeed became one of his principal duties.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the Butler reached his full flowering as head of the male domestic servants, in larger households sometimes having a whole suite of rooms dedicated to his various functions.
In the twentieth century, social change meant he almost vanished as a breed.
In our modern age the Butler has been reinvented as a kind of all- purpose household manager, often the sole permanent servant, as much required to organize his master’s travel arrangements and supervise redecorating the house as he is to serve the wine at formal dinners.