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Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin The Governess

This is the third part of a excerpt from the upcoming “A Ghastly Companion to Castles, Mansions, and Estates“. Naturally, the presentation is skewed towards a game of Gothic Romance and Romantic Horror, but should prove useful to anyone playing in a late-18th or early-19th century setting.

See also Part 1 and Part 2 in the series.

Note: 240p = 1 English Pound, 10p = 1 French Livre (pre-Revolutionary), 12p = 1 French Franc (post-Revolutionary), and 80p = 1 Spanish Dollar (“Piece-of-Eight”).

Estate Manager (Intendant) [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Intelligence

The grandest estates will employ an Estate Manager (also called a Bailiff, Steward or Intendant) to manage the property, oversee farming, and collect rents. Unless there is a separate House Steward, all the servants and staff ultimately report to the Estate Manager, who is responsible directly to the Master of the house. The Estate Manager will have their own Page, or possibly even a Valet.

A proper Estate Manager will have a broad range of skills. Above all, their knowledge of finance, business, and mathematics will be extensive, as will their knowledge of agricultural techniques. They will be familiar with the basics of almost every other job on the Estate, although their knowledge is not as extensive as that possessed by the specialized servants themselves. They will be skilled at both intimidation and persuasion, and have good powers of observation.

In places like Great Britain where a lady must be discreet about her lovers, a paramour may be be given the position of Estate Manager as a respectable cover for his presence in the household. The job is actually difficult and important, however, so if the lover was chosen solely for his looks or sexual talents, he will be given a less arduous position (such as “House Steward”) instead. In France, it is not unknown for a woman to serve as the Intendante of an estate (especially since managing the estate and household had historically been the duty of medieval noblewomen).

The average Estate Manager can expect to be paid about 900p a week – 11,700 per quarter, or 46,800p a year – but the Manager of a particularly large estate might be paid several times that amount.

Footman (Laquais) [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution or Charisma

Footmen (or Lackeys – Laquais in French) are male servants chosen for their height, endurance, and good looks. Their primary duties are to serve dinner to the family and guests, clean serving ware, travel with the family to prepare locations for their arrival, open doors and gates, and perform other high-visibility tasks. They are also often entrusted with the cleaning of fine hats, boots, expensive furnishings, and artworks. When traveling, they either hang onto the outside of the family’s coach, or run along with it. A Footman must be skilled at running and chasing over long distances, and able to dodge items that may fall from speeding carriages! Footmen are always dressed in the family livery when there are guests in the house.

Some footmen become quite proficient at “special services” discreetly provided for the older women of the household (and even more discreetly to certain men). Such Footmen may actually be Leveled as Libertines.

Footman are paid standard wages for a male House Servant (i.e., about 100p per week).

Forester [Grounds Servant]
Strongest Ability: Wisdom

The Forester sees to the health of an estate’s trees and wooded lands. Along with the Gamekeeper, he will also be responsible for chasing poachers. He must ensure that clear paths wide enough for horses are always maintained, with only such obstacles as a hunting party will consider pleasant to overcome. A Forester will have deep knowledge of trees and their preferred habitats. He will know how to identify and eliminate insect pests, and likely have good knowledge of mushrooms and fungi. He will be familiar with the animals that inhabit the estate’s woods. The medicinal properties of tree leaves, berries, and acorns will be known to him. He may even be able to forecast the weather by observing the leaves on nearby trees. A Forester’s skill with the axe will be exceptional. He will also know how to use a gun, and possibly the bow.

Some Magicians, especially Fairy Doctors, work as Foresters. The profession is also attractive to those who suffer from the curse of the Werewolf.

A good Forester’s wages can approach those of a Gardener – 350p per week, 4,550p quarterly, or 18,200p a year. The figure includes 150p a week Board Wage.

Gamekeeper [Grounds Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution or Dexterity (especially if actually a Demon Hunter)

The Gamekeeper’s duty is ensuring ensuring sufficient stocks of game animals for the household to hunt. He makes sure that all game animals have good sources of food and water, are healthy, breed properly, and do not become depleted through over-hunting. He breeds birds (pheasants and pigeons) for shooting, and manages the stocks of fish for angling. He often works with the Gardener to create the proper habitat for certain animals to thrive. When a hunt is scheduled to occur, the Gamekeeper will lure (or trap and place) game in the path of the hunting party. He will also responsible for shooting, poisoning, or trapping any predators that threaten the game stocks. He will therefore also be a skilled tracker. The greatest enemies of Gamekeepers are human poachers, however, and many Gamekeepers are killed while protecting their charges.

A Gamekeeper will always live in their own cottage on the estate, often outside the enclosed parkland. The job of Gamekeeper is a good cover for a Demon Hunter, since not everything that kills game animals is a natural predator.

Gamekeepers are relatively well paid for servants. Including his Board Wage, a Gamekeeper can earn as much as 500p per week – 6,500p quarterly, or 26,000p a year.

Gardener [Grounds Servant]
Strongest Ability: Wisdom

The Gardener designs and maintains the parkland gardens. He must have a good aesthetic sense; practical knowledge of botany, tree husbandry, geology, and chemistry; and be a proficient plumber as well. A Gardener will develop an intuitive sense for the coming weather, and be proficient at trapping small animals (like rabbits and hedgehogs) that threaten the plants. The Gardener is also responsible for hiring and directing any Assistant Gardeners, and is their paymaster. If the Lady of the House tends her own flower garden, the Gardener will be expected to advise and assist her as needed. As a grounds servant, he will have his own cottage in the parkland (sometimes in the Farmyard), and often have his own family living there with him.

Gardeners usually acquire much knowledge regarding the healing properties of various herbs, and it is not out of the question that one might be an initiated Warlock.

An average Gardener’s wages are 350p per week – 4,550p quarterly, or 18,200p a year. This figure includes 150 a week Board Wage, since the Gardener is not entitled to eat in the house.

Gardener, Assistant [Grounds Servant]
Strongest Ability: Wisdom.

An Assistant Gardener aids the estate’s primary Gardner is whatever way is required, and will thus possess the same skills (see Gardener). He will usually live with the Gardener (and his family). On an especially large estate with many separate gardens in the parkland, there might be several assistant Gardeners, each responsible for a different area. On such an extensive estate, even the Assistant Gardeners might have a cottages (or cottages) of their own.

Like a Head Gardener, an Assistant Gardener may actually be a Magician with knowledge of the occult properties of plants.

In Britain, Assistant Gardeners are usually paid weekly by the Gardener to whom they report – about 250p per week.

Governess (Gouvernante) [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Intelligence

A Governess is responsible for the general education of children, especially girls. Between the ages of 7 to 13 a boy will often go away to school, or start studying under specialized tutors. On the other hand, girls who are not sent off to a convent (common in Catholic countries) will remain under the instruction of their Governess until they are married – usually around 16, but possibly younger (in the case of royalty and high nobility), or older (around 20 in haute bourgeoisie households).

A Governess must have a broad education on many subjects, and the ability to speak articulately. Since she is also expected to discipline her charges, she will be resistant to manipulation and intimidation. Also on that account, she may be become quite proficient in defending herself with a stick, or whip. Governesses will usually have the ability to play the piano, dance, sew, and draw (all of which are considered necessary skills for every respectable woman to learn). Most will be required to know French, but exceptions might be made for Governesses who are particularly skilled in other areas.

Governesses sometimes eat with the children in their charge, or the other retainers, but never with the servants. They cannot be told to fetch items, nor are they necessarily responsible for the feeding or health of the children they teach (which is the job of the Nursery Maid). They cannot be whipped for infractions like a common servant. They usually come from middle-class backgrounds, and are 18 to 30 years of age. The bedchamber given to a Governess will always be better than any servant’s, but never quite as comfortable and luxurious as one for a family member or guest.

The mistress of the house is apt to treat a pretty Governess coldly. Governess characters should generally have suitably tragic and mysterious pasts, and may be doomed to fall in foolish love with the troubled master of the estate. A Governess may be a True Innocent, making her a particular target for wicked aristocrats!

Wages for a Governess average only about 200p a week while they are employed, but as part of their terms of employment they often receive pensions after retirement.

Groom [Grounds Servant]
Strongest Ability: Wisdom

The Groom trains and cares for the household’s horses, and is assisted by the Stable Boys and Postilions. He is responsible for the horse’s feed and water, and for washing them every morning (and after they have been ridden). He prepares and administers medicines and ointments to maintain their health. The Groom ensures that all saddles and tackle are kept in good condition. He may also help members of the household to mount their horses. A Groom generally sleeps in a room above (or to the side) of the stables.

Some Grooms may have originally acquired their skill with horses among the Gypsies A Groom may also develop a reputation as a “Horse Whisperer” on account of actually being a Magician.

A Groom’s wages are standard for Grounds Servants (100p regular wages, plus 150p Board Wage, per week).

Guard [House and Grounds Servants]
Strongest Ability: Dexterity, Strength, or Constitution

Armed Guards are much less common and numerous on estates in the Ghastly Age than in previous times. Often they are more ornamental than functional, armed with decorative halberds and spontoons rather than firearms. Such guards will generally have their own livery, of the same color scheme as the Footmen, but in a martial style. The Guards of sovereign nobility will be drawn from the actual military, often from among the ranks of the tall Grenadiers (Grenade-throwers). A Guard will often be taken along while traveling, riding next to the Coachman with a musket or shotgun. Household Guards often double as Porters (and vice-versa). Because of the ubiquity of Swiss mercenaries, household guards in France are often referred to as Suisses, a title they share with regular Porters.

If any supernatural occurrence plague the house at night, the Guards are the servants most likely to encounter them. Naturally, some Guards might actually be Demon Hunters. Others may be former Bandits trying to purse a less hazardous profession.

Guards receive the standard pay for male House Sarvants.

Hall Boy [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

The Hall Boy is a young man, between the ages of 11 and 18, who waits upon the adult servants at meals in the Servant’s Hall, and runs errands for them. Thus, he is the lowest ranked male servant in the house. The Hall Boy also personally attends the Butler like a Valet. The Hall Boy will possess a broad range of skills, being able to help with most basic tasks around the house. They can assist almost anyone with anything, but their knowledge is not specialized enough to perform important tasks without supervision. Hall Boys often become Handymen as adults.

Hall boys seldom receive any actual pay beyond clothing, food, and shelter, and must rely upon the “vails” given to them by guests.

Hall Maid [House Servant]
Strongest Ability: Constitution

The Hall Maid is a girl between the ages of 11 and 18 who serves the meals in the Servant’s Hall. She personally attends the Housekeeper, and cleans the Housekeeper’s and Butler’s rooms. Hall Maids develop an especial resistance to fatigue and nausea, since they are frequently given arduous and disgusting tasks (such as cleaning up the entrails of animals gutted in the kitchen). A Hall Maid may graduate to join the Kitchen Staff, or become a Housemaid.

Hall Maids are among the staff that are generally not paid at all.

Handyman or Laborer [House and Grounds Servant]
Strongest Ability: Dexterity, Strength, or Constitution

The Handyman or Laborer performs general repairs to the house and estate equipment, and especially performs the disassembly and reassembly of furniture put into storage. He must thus be strong, skilled in basic carpentry and masonry, and mechanically minded. He will often be given the task of trapping or otherwise eliminating the household vermin. A Handyman will develop some resistance to toxic fumes and substances, from his constant exposure to varnishes, paints, and rat poison. If necessary, the Handyman could easily defend himself with a hammer, axe, or convenient piece of lumber! The Handyman could live either in the House or in a Cottage on the grounds.

A Handyman might actually be a Demon Hunter, or even a Grave Robber.

A Handyman’s basic wages will be the standard 100p per week, plus 150p Board Wage if he does not live in the House.

Hairdresser [Servant or Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Dexterity

The elaborate hairstyles worn by ladies of the Decadent Age often require dedicated Hairdressers to create and maintain them. Even the more natural-appearing, deliberately tousled hairstyles of the Bloody Age are often carefully and artfully created by specialists. Besides a sense for color and proportion, a Hairdresser will have a good knowledge of practical chemistry. They will usually have good conversational skills, and develop an intuitive sense for people’s desires.

The most famous Hairdressers have the status of full Retainers, and the houses where they reside may be visited by ladies who wish nothing else but to have their hair done. Hairdressers are equally likely to be men or women. The profession is another often pursued by Libertines, although the bizarrely beautiful coiffures of the 1780s may also suggest the work of Mad Scientists!

Hermit [Retainer]
Strongest Ability: Wisdom

Certain households in Britain (and elsewhere) may employ an actual person to live in the Landscape Garden as an ornamental Hermit! Typically, the Hermit contracts to live in a cave, hut, or crude stone cottage in the garden for a period of a few years. The Hermit will be provided with simple food, a Bible, and rough clothing. They must let their hair and beard grow long, speak to no one, and generally play the part of a anchorite in the wilderness. Sometimes, the owner of the estate will prefer that the Hermit portray a Druid or Pagan sage. At the end of their service, the Hermit can collect their pay, and go back to civilized life.

An estate’s Hermit might be Leveled as a Magician – and thus resemble a mystic, on account of actually being one!

Because it is not a profession with accepted standards, an ornamental Hermit’s pay is highly variable. A common compensation, however, would be about 25,000p per year employed. Many would-ornamental Hermits, however, find they cannot even last a whole year in the role.