Remote Control - Saturday October 25, 2014
A life under the stairs with idle rich
Doesn’t your heart bleed for the upper classes and the problems they have with living off vast piles of inherited cash?
But how frightfully ghastly it must be for them to actually engage with the world of work – like one of the proles – when the cash runs out.
Such is the dilemma in which Princess Olga Romanoff, the great-granddaughter of Alexander III of Russia, has found herself.
As Channel 4’s new series, You Can’t Get the Staff, showed, after inheriting the family pile she has realised the place doesn’t simply maintain itself and has – at the age of 64 – finally had to work for her living.
I say ‘work’ but it seems to entail begrudgingly letting the peasants wander around her enormous house while she gives a threadbare guide and looks down her nose.
‘I’ve never had a job before,’ she implores, before adding: ‘I’d prefer to be off galloping around the countryside on my horse, to be honest.’ But hey, wouldn’t we all, love.
Over at Chillingford Castle we had Sir Humphry Wakefield, who was looking for someone to tidy up his collection of more than 1,000 military implements. It was all very impressive and all he asked for was ‘loyalty to the castle and I expect them to give their life and soul to the castle.’ All for the slightly less than princely sum of the national minimum wage – £6.31.
Next we met Lady Colin Campbell who was on the lookout for a new butler for her London pied a terre.
There are people willing to debase themselves even further in the role of ‘under butler’ in their willingness to serve the idle rich.
Full of (very) minor royal name-dropping – ‘Lady Hfurrhurhurr, oh, is she the one I sat next to at the fashion show?’ – and wanting to make sure the staff knew their place (always ready to serve, but practically invisible) she was a wonder of self-importance.
With a stunning lack of irony, CC and her dinner guests dissected their attitudes to ‘the help’. They may as well have been talking about unruly pets. Pompous didn’t even come close.
At times you had to wonder if you weren’t watching a Downton Abbey spoof.
Fortunately for all these aristos, there seems to be no shortage of people satisfied with living life below stairs in the 21st century. With all this talk of protocol, correct ways of addressing the idle rich and kowtowing to people born into luxury, it was, frankly, nauseating.