Julius Smith Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, November 2020, My Butler Julius

Julius SmithEdwin Lee, Butler to Lord & Lady Astor

by Julius Smith

Edwin Lee was born the youngest of five children on a farm in a village called Dudlestone in Shropshire on the Welsh Border around 1880.

At an early age, Edwin decided farming was not to be his calling and, as his cousin had done, engaged in private service instead. His first post was as a page boy for a family in Lancashire, truly starting at the bottom. He was only to stay there for a year before he moved on to a large house in Derbyshire, to work in the position of footman for the Honourable Henry Mostyn, where his education began under a formal butler. For the next 10 years, he moved to various houses, always looking to move up in the ranks.

Finally, after visiting Masseys agency, he was invited to an interview that would change his life: He was taken on as a steward for Lord & Lady Astor at their homes in St. James Square in London and Clivedon in Buckinghamshire. He remained in their service for the next fifty years.

Over time, Mr. Lee became the valet for Lord Astor and described him as the finest gentleman he had ever had the privilege to serve. Eventually, he was invited to become the butler for the family. Serving Lady Astor was well known to have been one of the hardest roles in society as she was known to be a very hard taskmaster. Additionally, the entertaining at Clivedon was legendary and Edwin Lee oversaw all of it. Many people who worked under him describe him as being not only a wonderful butler but also the wisest man they had ever met, and he gained the nickname “Lord Lee,” as people felt he should have been an orator in The House of Lords.

Throughout his time, Mr. Lee was offered many opportunities to move to America and beyond, but he always felt a sense of loyalty to The Astor family.

One famous story about Edwin Lee occurred when, after a table for forty had been laid, Lady Astor came to inspect it. She climbed onto the table in her stockings and announced, “This will not do!” and began kicking the glasses onto the floor. At this point, Lee said, “My Lady, I must give my notice,” and proceeded to walk out of the dining room, at which Lady Astor jumped off the table, ran up to her butler and said, ‘’Wherever you are going, I am following.’’

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.”