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Tips on how to be a butler serving the rich and famous

Now a floating hotel docked in Dubai, the QE2 is home to a new British Butler Institute. Sarah Marshall discovers the top five must-have skills

The QE2 Chart Room
The QE2 Chart Room

Renowned for its high levels of service, and hosting some of the most discerning customers at sea, the iconic Queen Elizabeth 2, now a floating hotel docked permanently in Dubai, will be home to the Middle East's first British Butler Institute from January 26.

Principal of the Institute and former head butler at the Ritz, Gary Williams is in charge of training the service stars of tomorrow. We find out which skills he'll be teaching them...

1. A butler is a jack of all trades and a master of each one

"A butler can be a valet, chef, housekeeper, chauffeur and PA rolled into one. From collecting the newspapers at 6am, ready to provide tray service for those who wish to have breakfast in bed, to serving dinner and drinks at the end of the day, they have a wide variety of tasks to perform, and there's no hopping from foot to foot, hoping for the day to end," says Williams.

"Should there be any gaps in the day, they should polish silver, clean or drive the cars, open the post, answer the phone and front door, take the dog for a walk, run baths, deal with contractors and generally ensure that everybody is happy."

2. Plan ahead and always pay attention to detail

From regularly meeting with their employer, known as the principal, and the other members of staff they work with, to liaising with the staff of any guests who are coming to stay, it is so important to plan ahead, Williams adds.

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"Before a big shoot or house party, I often contact the guests' PA or butler, to ask what their requirements are.

"Perhaps they like fresh pink roses by the bed or Tanqueray gin with three slices of lemon and Fever Tree tonic before supper.

"With the principal's permission, I ensure that these are all available, so their stay is as comfortable as possible."

3. Everything must be done in the correct fashion

From folding napkins and shining shoes, to serving cigars and carrying out a turndown service, there is a correct way to perform each task that every butler must know.

"We teach 38 modules on how to serve different items," he says.

The famous floating hotel
The famous floating hotel

4. Know how to clean everything

"It is vital to know everything there is to know about stain removal," notes Williams.

"If a guest spills wine on their suede shoes, I will remove it using an eraser, an emery board and a suede brush.

"Should a lady spill red wine on a silk dress, I'll let her know that should it be ironed in, it will stain forever.

"I'll also suggest that she changes immediately if possible, put soda water on it and then take it to a specialist cleaner."

5. What does a butler see? Everything, sir, but we never speak of it

Gary Williams
Gary Williams

"We see all manner of political and sexual scandals, but we never speak of anything," he continues.

"There is a code of honour, which applies both in and out of the household.

"Often, prying guests call me over and whisper, 'Is such and such having an affair?' or, 'Is it true that President Clinton and Brad Pitt are dining here next week?'

"To each I give a variation on the answer: 'I am not aware of that, sir'. And I always inform my principal.

To find out more about the QE2, visit qe2.com. Visit britishbutlerinstitute.com/qe2 to find out more about the British Butler Institute on board the QE2

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