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A valet (or varlet) is a male servant who serves as personal attendant to his employer. In the Middle Ages and Ancien Régime, valet de chambre was a role for junior courtiers and specialists such as artists in a royal court, but the term "valet" by itself most often refers to a normal servant responsible for the clothes and personal belongings of an employer, and making minor arrangements.
A domestic worker, domestic helper, domestic servant, manservant or menial, is a person who works within the employer's household.
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and transitioned into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.
In the United States, the term most often refers to a parking valet.
Valet parking is a parking service offered by some restaurants, stores, and other businesses. In contrast to "self-parking", where customers find a parking space on their own, customers' vehicles are parked for them by a person called a valet. This service either requires a fee to be paid by the customer or is offered free of charge by the establishment.
In English, valet as "personal man-servant" is recorded since 1567, though use of the term in the French-speaking English medieval court is older, and the variant form varlet is cited from 1456 (OED). Both are French importations of valet (the "t" being silent in modern French) or varlet, Old French variants of vaslet "man's servant", originally "squire, young man", assumed to be from Gallo-Romance Vulgar Latin *vassellittus "young nobleman, squire, page", diminutive of Medieval Latin vassallus , from vassus "servant", possibly cognate to an Old Celtic root wasso- "young man, squire" (source of Welsh gwas "youth, servant", Breton goaz "servant, vassal, man", Irish foss "servant"). See yeoman, possibly derived from yonge man, a related term.
Vulgar Latin or Sermo Vulgaris, also Colloquial Latin, or Common Romance, was a range of non-standard sociolects of Latin spoken in the Mediterranean region during and after the classical period of the Roman Empire. It is distinct from Classical Latin, the standard and literary version of the language. Compared to Classical Latin, written documentation of Vulgar Latin appears less standardized. Works written in Latin during classical times and the earlier Middle Ages used prescribed Classical Latin rather than Vulgar Latin, with very few exceptions, thus Vulgar Latin had no official orthography of its own.
Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in Roman Catholic Western Europe during the Middle Ages. In this region it served as the primary written language, though local languages were also written to varying degrees. Latin functioned as the main medium of scholarly exchange, as the liturgical language of the Church, and as the working language of science, literature, law, and administration.
A vassal is a person regarded as having a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch, in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support by knights in exchange for certain privileges, usually including land held as a tenant or fief. The term is also applied to similar arrangements in other feudal societies.
The modern use is usually short for the valet de chambre (French for "room valet", in modern terms the bedroom, though not originally so), described in the following section.
Since the 16th century, the word has traditionally been pronounced as rhyming with pallet, though an alternative pronunciation, rhyming with chalet, as in French, is now common.The Oxford English Dictionary lists both pronunciations as valid.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is the principal historical dictionary of the English language, published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a comprehensive resource to scholars and academic researchers, as well as describing usage in its many variations throughout the world. The second edition, comprising 21,728 pages in 20 volumes, was published in 1989.
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A valet or "gentleman's gentleman" is a gentleman's male servant; the closest female equivalent is a lady's maid. The valet performs personal services such as maintaining his employer's clothes, running his bath and perhaps (especially in the past) shaving his employer.
A lady's maid is a female personal attendant who waits on her employer. The role of a lady's maid is similar to that of a gentleman's valet.
In a great house, the master of the house had his own valet, and in the very grandest great houses, other adult members of the employing family (e.g. master's sons) would also have their own valets.
A great house is a large house or mansion with luxurious appointments and great retinues of indoor and outdoor staff.
Master is an English honorific for boys and young men.
At a court, even minor princes and high officials may be assigned one, but in a smaller household the butler – the majordomo in charge of the household staff – might have to double as his employer's valet. In a bachelor's household the valet might perform light housekeeping duties as well.
Valets learned the skills for their role in various ways. Some began as footmen, learning some relevant skills as part of that job, and picking up others when deputising for their master's valet, or by performing valeting tasks for his sons before they had a valet of their own, or for male guests who did not travel with a valet. Others started out as soldier-servants to army officers (batmen) or stewards to naval officers.
Traditionally, a valet did much more than merely lay out clothes and take care of personal items. He was also responsible for making travel arrangements, dealing with any bills and handling all money matters concerning his master or his master's household.
Alexandre Bontemps, the most senior of the thirty-six valets to Louis XIV of France, was a powerful figure, who ran the Château de Versailles. In courts, valet de chambre was a position of some status, often given to artists, musicians, poets and others, who generally spent most of their time on their specialized work. The role was also, at least during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a common first step or training period in a nobleman's career at court.
Valets, like butlers and most specialized domestic staff, have become relatively rare. A more common, though still infrequent, arrangement is the general servant performing combined roles.
Valet is also used for people performing specific services:
Other forms of valet-like personnel include:
Clothes valets are a piece of furniture also referred to as a men's valet. A majority are free standing and made out of wood.
While in French this word remained restricted to the feudal use for a (knight's) squire, in modern English it came to be used for the various other male servants originally called va(r)let other than the gentleman's gentleman, when in livery usually called lackey, such as the valet de pied ('foot varlet', compare footman). In archaic English, varlet also could mean an unprincipled man; a rogue.
Reginald Jeeves, usually referred to as just Jeeves, is a fictional character in a series of comedic short stories and novels by English author P. G. Wodehouse. Jeeves is the highly competent valet of a wealthy and idle young Londoner named Bertie Wooster. First appearing in print in 1915, Jeeves continued to feature in Wodehouse's work until his last completed novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen in 1974, a span of 60 years.
A batman or an orderly is a soldier or airman assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant. Before the advent of motorized transport, an officer's batman was also in charge of the officer's "bat-horse" that carried the pack saddle with his officer's kit during a campaign.
A majordomo is a person who speaks, makes arrangements, or takes charge for another. Typically, this is the highest (major) person of a household staff, a head servant who acts on behalf of the owner of a large or significant residence. Synonyms include castellan, concierge, chamberlain, seneschal, mayor of the palace, curopalate, maître d'hôtel, head butler, and steward.
Arthur Veary Treacher was an English film and stage actor active from the 1920s to the 1960s, and known for playing English stereotypes, especially butler and manservant roles, such as the P.G. Wodehouse valet character Jeeves and the kind butler Andrews opposite Shirley Temple in Heidi (1937). In the 1960s, he became well-known on American television as an announcer/sidekick to talk show host Merv Griffin. He lent his name to the Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips chain of restaurants.
The Maison du Roi was the royal household of the King of France. It comprised the military, domestic and religious entourage of the French royal family during the Ancien Régime and Bourbon Restoration.
A groom or stable boy is a person who is responsible for some or all aspects of the management of horses and/or the care of the stables themselves. The term most often refers to a person who is the employee of a stable owner, but an owner of a horse may perform the duties of a groom, particularly if the owner only possesses a few horses.
Alfred, most commonly named in full as Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth, also known by his other alias Christopher Miller, is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, most commonly in association with the superhero Batman. Alfred serves as the loyal butler of Bruce Wayne / Batman.
Starting in the Middle Ages, a squire was the shield- or armour-bearer of a knight. At times, a squire acted as a knight's errand runner.
A henchman is a loyal employee, supporter, or aide to some powerful figure engaged in nefarious or criminal enterprises. A henchman is typically relatively unimportant in the organization, a minion, whose value lies primarily in their unquestioning loyalty to their leader. The term henchman is often used derisively to refer to an individual of low status who lacks any moral compass of their own.
A butler is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its appearance. A butler is usually male, and in charge of male servants, while a housekeeper is usually a woman, and in charge of female servants. Traditionally, male servants were better paid and of higher status than female servants. The butler, as the senior male servant, has the highest servant status. He can also sometimes function as a chauffeur.
A footman or footboy is a male domestic worker.
Groom of the Chamber and Groom of the Privy Chamber were positions in the Royal Household of the English monarchy, the latter considerably more elevated. Other Ancien Régime royal establishments in Europe had comparable officers, often with similar titles. In France, the Duchy of Burgundy, and in England while French was still the language of the court, the title was varlet or valet de chambre. In German, Danish and Russian the term was "Kammerjunker" and in Swedish the similar "Kammarjunkare".
Valet de chambre, or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal households had many persons appointed at any time. While some valets simply waited on the patron, or looked after his clothes and other personal needs, itself potentially a powerful and lucrative position, others had more specialized functions. At the most prestigious level it could be akin to a monarch or ruler's personal secretary, as was the case of Anne de Montmorency at the court of Francis I of France. For noblemen pursuing a career as courtiers, like Étienne de Vesc, it was a common early step on the ladder to higher offices.
The Game of Love and Chance is a three-act romantic comedy by French playwright Marivaux. The Game of Love and Chance was first performed 23 January 1730 by the Comédie Italienne. In this play, a young woman is visited by her betrothed, whom she does not know. To get a better idea of the type of person he is, she trades places with her servant and disguises herself. However, unbeknownst to her, her fiancé has the same idea and trades places with his valet. The "game" pits the two false servants against the two false masters, and in the end, the couples fall in love with their appropriate counterpart.
The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) is a drama film about a newly hired servant who severely disrupts a wealthy family. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Octave Mirbeau and the play Le journal d'une femme de Chambre, written by André de Lorde, with André Heuse and Thielly Nores. The film was directed by Jean Renoir, and starred Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith, Hurd Hatfield, and Francis Lederer. It was named the eighth best English-language film of 1946 by the National Board of Review.
The Man in Evening Clothes is a 1931 American pre-Code comedy film directed by René Guissart and starring Fernand Gravey, Diana and Suzy Vernon. It was made by the French subsidiary of Paramount Pictures at the Joinville Studios in Paris. A Spanish-language version A Gentleman in Tails was also released the same year.
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