Saturday, August 20, 2022

Question from Alicia - Murder of servants

Dear Tudor bloggers, I just read The Door by Mary Roberts Rhinehart, and it made me come here to ask an odd question. I realized the centuries-old double standard, thats older than Feudalism, about how if a servant murders his/her master/mistress, its a horrible scandal, but most likely if an aristocratic employer murdered his/her servant, they wouldnt have been as stigmatized and nobody wouldve batted an eye. For example, you always hear stories about how the butler did it, but we never hear any stories/mysteries about how/why, say, Lord X, Earl of X murders his butler. So, in this era, presumably, how many noble/rich people got rid of their servants, and were they as demonized/villainized for doing so as they wouldve been, had the roles been reversed?


  1. Good afternoon Alicia! To help answer this inquiry, yes, there was a double standard on this subject, as well. However, I think it’s now becoming more outdated, as there are some servants/domestic workers who still do murder their employers, or try to, and they don’t receive as much backlash for it anymore, (whether if that’s good or bad) and rich folks/aristocracy/nobility, nowadays, are completely being held accountable/punished for the way they treat their servants. Just as the gender double standard about promiscuity/adultery, it may have been true that men were revered/admired/glorified for it, and women, demonized, criticized, and scorned, centuries ago, but I’ve noticed that nowadays some women are sleeping around (with multiple men), and are proud of it, viewed as being “sexually liberated”, and ought to be praised/receive praise like, “you go, girl!” Whereas men, more of the time, are now the gender that’s being criticized/scorned for sleeping around with multiple women. Just an odd thought I wanted to share. The point is, things have changed, what may have been a moral standard, even as recently as 20 years ago, no longer holds relevance, and is increasingly becoming outdated/inappropriate.

  2. Just Your Average HistorianAugust 20, 2022 3:12 PM

    Alicia, I have also read that story, and I think you just made an excellent point with your question. There is not even one murder mystery/story that has the rich employer murder, or try to murder his (or her) servant. But this was in an era where pretty much everyone, except if you were a rich, Caucasian/white, adult gentleman, was at worst, persecuted and oppressed, and at best, just a second-class citizen. The children, women, and/or domestic servants (whether male or female); etc,. could even expect to get beaten/abused by this “man of the house”, his word was law, and any of them could get beaten up/whipped/abused; etc,. for things such as being too outspoken and assertive, “talking back”, and/or just general disobedience and insubordinate behavior. And yes, still for all that, there definitely still were some powerful, rich men in history who actually treated their wives, kids, and/or servants with kindness, respect, and decency. Like a comment I just read from PhD Historian, from an earlier question, from this woman named Anne, not all of history is as completely well-documented as we historians would like.

  3. Hey you all, thanks for the feedback/opinions, I really appreciate it. I don’t want/mean to keep beating a dead horse or overanalyzing everything, but, I just wrote an odd story, I’m thinking about getting published, that’s set in Victorian England about a butler who is sexually promiscuous. In it, he sleeps around with the female servants, rich female dinner guests, some lower-class, peasant girls, and even prostitutes, off the streets. (Puts a whole new meaning to “the butler did it”)!😜 When his aristocratic master finds out about it, though, he is furious, dismisses the butler, and even sends him off to a mental institution, what makes it worse is the fact that the employer is a hypocrite, as he’s had his own fair share of hanky-panky’s in the mansion. So to sum it all up, yes, back then powerful, rich men and women had control of their servants bodies, too, and they were considered the Lord or Lady’s “property.” Thank goodness that’s now as outdated as corporal punishment for kids in school, or a husband having a socially acceptable right to beat his wife!

  4. Oh my, yes! Unfortunately, the world has always been full of sin, right after the first woman and the first man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Throughout history, just as now, people will still be people, and nobody should completely be put on a pedestal, or completely vilified/demonized, either. I believe that for centuries and centuries (regardless of gender, age, social status); etc,. there were always both good/virtuous and bad/evil people of every group, and that would’ve included/does include; men, women, and/or even children; etc,..

  5. Greetings to everyone, here. These definitely are/were all unfair double standards, but there were “supposed reasons” they existed. E.g., people most likely “watched out” for servants murdering their employer(s) because it just simply was actually more likely to happen, that way, than vice versa. Most servants for centuries past, at least up to the “Downton Abbey era”, were unfortunately overworked, underpaid, and very disgruntled, not a good combination. So therefore, it wouldn’t have been unheard of if a servant who killed their master/mistress made news on the front page of the newspaper.
    I once read some brief story about how, back in Victorian England, there was a valet who had memorized his master’s schedule from morning to night, but when the overbearing man forced him to put a pillow back because he was displeased of the “presumptuousness” of his servant, (it was possibly just an honest mistake) the valet snapped, and shot him!
    And when it comes to the promiscuity double standard, it was because, (for both royals and nobility, anyways), a woman needed to be pure because it would’ve been harder to figure out of the multiple men she’s slept with which one could’ve gotten her pregnant and who the true father was, whereas for men sleeping around with multiple women, unless SHE’S also been fooling around with other gents, as well, you immediately knew by looking at them, which woman was the true mother of each child, if pregnancy resulted.

  6. I would also like to add, I am a very avid history lover, and I just toured the Jocelyn Castle, in Omaha, Nebraska. The distinction between the couple Mr. and Mrs. Jocelyn, and their servants was very much a thing. The servants knew their “place” and the couple knew their own. Their butler and/or their maids weren’t even allowed to walk down the main staircase, and instead went through a wooden rickety staircase with no rails to even grab onto, to enter other rooms, because it was thought that a stair railing wasn’t even necessary and would just get in the way of them carrying stuff downstairs to the other rooms or getting their work done!


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