Butler to couple living at 17th century Renishaw Hall jokes looking after posh people is just like taking care of pigs because ‘you feed them when they’re hungry and clean up their mess’ in Keeping Up With The Aristocrats
The butler serving the family of a 17th-century stately home jokingly compares his employers to ‘pigs’ in new fly-on-the-wall series Keeping Up With The Aristocrats.
The three-part programme, which premieres on ITV on Monday night, offers a look behind closed doors at four of England’s grandest country piles, and the well-heeled people who’ve inherited them.
Among them is Alexandra Sitwell, 63, whose family have lived at Grade I-listed Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire since 1625.
She and husband Rick, a Bahamian businessman and former chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers, run the 500-acre estate with the help of a full-time staff, including butler David Hintz.
Staff: Unlike some of the other aristos, Alexandra and Rick have the benefit of a team of permanent staff members, including four gardeners, two housekeepers and a butler, David, pictured, who jokes he got into the business because of his father.
The anti-boring aristos: Other toffs in the show include Alexandra Sitwell, 63, who inherited the 17th-century Grade I-listed Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire where her family has lived since 1625. Pictured, Alexandra with her husband Rick
In episode one, cameras follow David as he prepares a picnic in one of the ornamental gardens for Alexandra, Rick and two of their posh pals, and explains how he got into the business because of his father.
‘How I got into butlering was through my father,’ he says. ‘My father was a pig farmer and then became a butler but he says it’s the same thing: you feed them when they’re hungry and you clean up their mess!’
Elsewhere in the episode, he admit that people are fascinated by his work and want to know if it’s like the ‘real-life Downton Abbey’.
Renishaw Hall boasts a Italianate garden and a vineyard with wine stocked in supermarkets.
It is also full of builders. The house is undergoing a massive refit to fix its ancient wiring and leaky plumbing.
Rich with resources: The 500-acre estate boasts a Italianate garden and a vineyard with wine stocked in supermarkets
‘This has been a huge upheaval,’ Alexandra says of the major renovation, in a room surrounded by workers.
For his part, Rick believes there is nothing worse than being ‘boring’.
‘The one thing you don’t want to be is boring,’ he says. ‘And [you must] have manners. But boring… I’m afraid I’m too old. I just walk away if someone is utterly boring. I just disappear.’
He certainly leads by example. At one point he walks through the grounds in his slippers and dressing gown, offering his verdict on the state of the facilities.
‘All looking good,’ he says. ‘Fountain is working. Swimming pool is a good colour.’
Unlike some of the other aristos, Alexandra and Rick have the benefit of a team of permanent staff members, including four gardeners, two housekeepers and David.
Time for tea! Baroness Alexandra Sitwell with her husband Rick host a picnic in the grounds of Renishaw Hall
The show reveals the extraordinary amount of work – and cash – required to keep these majestic mansions up and running. And, unlike their ancestors, many of today’s blue-bloods are having to do the work themselves.
For the reality is that many of today’s aristos are asset rich but cash-strapped and are kept awake at night worrying about how they’re going to make ends meet, just like the rest of us.
Only they also have to deal with the embarrassing prospect that they might just be the generation that fails to keep up payments and must pass on ownership of a property that’s been in the family for hundreds of years.
‘Having a stately home is a privilege,’ says Lady Emma Fitzalan-Howard, who lives in Yorkshire’s 126-room Carlton Towers, ‘but it comes with a big emotional price tag.’
Getting stuck in: Appearing in the series is Lord Ivar Mountbatten, left, a cousin of both the Queen and Prince Philip who cleans the 100-plus windows of his mansion, 18th-century Bridwell Park in Devon, himself. The divorced father-of-three made history four years ago when he became the first British royal to enter into a same-sex marriage, with airline steward James
New endeavours: Bridwell Park comes with an ornamental lake, a Gothic chapel and a deer park, which, while beautiful to look at, are expensive to maintain. In the series, Lord Ivar and James try to earn a crust by organising a pop-up restaurant at the house in collaboration with French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, charging guests £165 a head for an exclusive dinner
Russian royalty: Princess Olga Romanoff (pictured) is a member of the Russian upper-classes, whose great-uncle Tsar Nicholas II was murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918. However she needs money to run her family’s estate
Majestic money pit: Twice married and twice divorced, Princess Olga, 71, lives at the medieval Provender House near Faversham, which she inherited 21 years ago upon the death of her mother (her father, Nicholas II’s nephew, had escaped to England). By then the money had run out and it was a ramshackle wreck
Family legacy: There’s also Lord Gerald Fitzalan-Howard, 59, whose father was the 17th Duke of Norfolk. When Gerald’s elder brother Edward inherited Arundel Castle in Sussex, as well as 126-room Carlton Towers in North Yorkshire, he gave the latter to Gerald, who’s lived there since 1991. Pictured, Lord Gerald with Lady Emma, his wife of 30 years
Breathtaking: The stately home, which sits in 1,000 acres, comes with a clock tower, three state rooms and a Venetian Drawing Room. While there are plenty of benefits to having that much space, there are also astronomical costs
It also comes with an actual price tag: Lady Emma and her husband Lord Gerard have to foot an annual £70,000 heating bill.
At Bridwell House, in Devon, for example, the Queen’s cousin Lord Ivar Mountbatten takes it upon himself to clean the 100 windows, preferring to do the work himself rather than waste money on a professional.
It makes perfect sense, given upkeep on the property sets him and husband James back £100,000 a year.
Elsewhere at Provender House, in Kent, Princess Olga Romanoff, the great-niece of Tsar Nicholas II, reveals she has already spent £2million on repairs and now offers £14-a-head tours in order to bring in the money needed for more.
How the other half live (L-R): Alexandra Sitwell and husband Rick, Princess Olga Romanoff, Lord Ivar Mountbatten and husband James and Lord and Lady Fitzalan-Howard at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, on Keeping Up With The Aristocrats