Friday, May 11, 2012

Upstairs, Downstairs: The Help, Continued

Previously I wrote about servants in a cape-and-sword campaign, as seen in the source literature and the rules of a couple of swashbuckling games.

In addition to loyal lackeys and the wages of servants, Flashing Blades includes one more explicit reference to the help, under the section on property investment: "Upkeep is assumed to pay for servants, gardeners, furniture, etc." Each property type - townhouse, villa, small estate, large estate, and château - includes an amount in livres which must be paid annually, a portion of which is assumed to pay for the serving staff.

So how many servants does the owner of a townhouse or a château have, exactly? And what do they do?

History is a good guide, of course. The following is a reconstruction from payment records of the household of Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland in 1539, as reported in The Household of a Tudor Nobleman.

Title Number Title Number
Treasorer 1 Stables 7 p/t
Comptroller 1 Yemen Cokes 3
Gentylwomen Wayters 6 + 3 part-time Gromes of the Kichen 4
Chapelyns 4 +1 p/t Lardermen 2
Fyzytyon 1 p/t Aumers 1
Secretores 1 Scullerye 1
Gentylmen Ussers 2 Garyners 2
Gentylemen Waters 9 + 1 p/t Armerers 1 p/t
Scole Masters 1 Huntes 1
Clerks of the Kichen 3 + 3 p/t Tillers 1 p/t
Yeoman Ushers 2 Caters 1
Yeomen Waters of the Chambur 8 Waryners 1
Gromes of the Chamber 5 Kepers of Haye 2
Seller 2 Slaughtermen 1
Pantre 2 Smythe 1
Buttre 3 p/t Cowpers unk
Ewerye 1 Shepherdes 3
Ussers of the Halle 2 Bargemen 1
Warderope 5 Women of the Laundre 5
Mynstrelles 2 Dare Women 1
Porters 2 Pultre Women unk
Bakers 5 p/t Kepers of Hallywell 1
Bruers 3 p/t Kepers of Pastures 3
Myllers 3 Maser Scowrere 2
Joners 2 Waterdrawers 1 p/t
Glaysers 2 p/t Carpentyrs 1 p/t + servant
Carters 2 p/t Surgyons 1 p/t

In Flashing Blades terms, Lord Rutland is a count, a knight, a lieutenant general, and a court minister with the Wealth and Land Advantages - the latter more than once! - so while the example is instructive, it's also perhaps not representative.

A Book of Orders and Rules, written by Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montagu, for the management of his own household, is perhaps a better guide. Lord Montagu lists thirty-seven positions to be filled for the equivalent of a large estate or château. Assuming average wages of ten livres per person-month for a staff of forty, that works out to 4800 £, which vastly exceeds the total upkeep required for any of the properties in Flashing Blades, however.

So let's hold onto Lord Montagu as our ideal for a large property owner, and take the upkeep required for property as representing the minimum threshold below which, like the baron de Sigognac's château in Capitaine Fracasse, the place begins to crumble around the owner! For normal living conditions with the barest modicum of respectability, the cost of operating and maintaining the various properties may be assumed to pay for a number of servants up to no more than 50% of the annual upkeep. At least one servant and one cook are required for every two residents. At least one coachman or groom keeps up to two horses on their property, with an additional coachmen for every two additional horses. The owner of a country property must also keep a certain number of laborers as groundskeepers: one for a villa, two for a small estate, three for a large estate, and four for a château. Failure to pay for the laborers may result in a decline in property value as necessary repairs aren't made.

So, the owner of a château, living alone or with a spouse and no other dependents and keeping a horse, must provide for one body servant (120 £ annually), one cook (120 £), one coachman (96 £), and four laborers (48 £ each), for a total of 528 £ annually. This come is slightly under half of the château's annual upkeep of 1440 £, allowing him to pay for an additional body servant, or an additional groom if he also has a carriage and the four horses necessary to draw it, without paying additional expenses beyond the annual upkeep assumed in the property. Any difference must be made up by the property owner.

But again, bear in mind that this is the minimum requirement, and far from ideal - indeed, a character who keeps only the minimum number of servants is will likely receive comments from non-player characters, perhaps serving as the butt of jokes.

So how many servants should a character have to avoid calumnies? As a guideline, the owner of a townhome should have a number of servants equal to half his Social Rank; the owner of a villa or small estate servants equal to his Social Rank; and the owner of a large estate or château servants equal to twice his social rank. If that sounds hideously expensive, bear in mind that the ostentatious display of wealth is a hallmark of aristocracy. Its absence should invite notice.

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