LORD MOUNTBATTEN: His Butler's Story by Charles Smith

LORD MOUNTBATTEN: His Butler's Story

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An endearing book, believe it or not, about 50 proud years of domestic service. Smith entered the Mountbattens' employ in 1930, at 18, as Lady Louis' ""traveling footman."" At home, he waited on the door; away, he was major-domo and sometimes lady's maid (responsible for ""pressing Her Ladyship's clothes and washing her 'smalls'""). In time he became Lord Louis' valet and, ultimately, The Butler. He first knew Prince Philip as a mettlesome 13-year-old with a taste for adventure movies; later, he and Prince Charles would both respond at the sound of their shared name--irremediable since neither wished to be called ""Charlie."" He once came upon Noel Coward working on a new song--which Smith, asked, pronounced ""very catchy""--and soon was humming ""Mad Dogs and Englishmen."" He found Mrs. Simpson ""very friendly and considerate""; drove Lord Louis to hear King Edward's fateful decision; and made the Mountbattens' country seat into a snug hideaway (""Everything was delicately arranged, without the slightest fuss"") for Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip's honeymoon. But it's Smith's give-and-take relationship with his employer that lends the account its sparkle and saves it from bended-knee-seizure, despite the many appreciative letters and inscribed photos in evidence. Once Lord Louis was so miffed at being taken for his valet--Smith was then the nattier dresser--that he went into the airport men's room and changed his suit. On another occasion he was piqued to see Smith turn up in a Panama hat he'd coveted and passed up as too expensive; Smith, of course, had bargained the price down. We also hear that there were rows, usually settled by compromise: ""I acknowledged His Lordship's position; and he acknowledged mine."" Smith, indeed, may be one of the last of the unregretful, unapologetic servitors (at a price, perhaps, of one nervous breakdown and a threatened second). A jaunty narrative and a spot of social history.

Pub Date: Dec. 9th, 1980
Publisher: Stein & Day