Valet and Varlet are terms for
maleservants who serve as personal attendants to their employer. In the Middle Ages, the valet de chambreto a ruler was a prestigious appointment for young courtiers, though in England, unlike France, these court roles later came to be called "grooms".
In English, valet "personal man-servant" is recorded since 1567, though use of the term in the French-speaking English medieval court is much older, and the variant form varlet is cited from 1456 (
OED). Both are French importations of "valet" (the t being silent) or "varlet", Old French variants of "vaslet" "man's servant," originally "squire, young man," assumed to be from Gallo-Romance *"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".
The modern use is usually short for the "valet de chambre" (French for 'bedroom valet'), described in the following section. In social circles of the English-speaking world where valets are likely to be found, the word is pronounced to rhyme with "pallet". An alternative pronunciation, rhyming with "chalet", is not considered correct. The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary lists both pronunciations.
A valet or gentleman's gentleman is a gentleman's male servant, the closest male equivalent to 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. 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. 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, like butlers and most specialized domestic staff, have become relatively rare, and a more common — though still infrequent — arrangement is the general servant performing combined roles.
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 an extremely powerful figure, who ran the Chateau de Versailles. In courts, valet de chambrewas 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 Agesand the Renaissance, a common first step or training period in a nobleman's career at court.
Famous fictional valets
Jeeves, created in 1915 by P. G. Wodehouse, starred in a series of stories until Wodehouse's death in 1975; Reginald Jeeves is considered the "personification of the perfect valet" since 1930, inspired the name of Internet search engine Ask Jeeves(from 1996 to 2006, now Ask.com), and is now a generic term in dictionaries such as the Oxford English Dictionary.
Mervyn Bunter, created in 1923 by Dorothy L. Sayersin the Lord Peter Wimseyseries, likewise a paragon of discreet competence, taking his duties beyond what was expected of a valet to help his master.
Alfred Pennyworth, butler to Bruce Wayne aka Batman, created by Bob Kane. Played by Alan Napierin the 1966 "Batman" film starring Adam West, Michael Goughin Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Foreverand Batman and Robin, and most recently by Michael Cainein Batman Beginsand The Dark Knight.
* Brothers Giles and Nigel French, played by Sebastian Cabot and John Williams, respectively, in the
TV series" Family Affair" (later functioned as the family butler).
* Hobson (Sir
John Gielgud), from the comedy film "Arthur" (1981).
* Kato, valet and
sidekickto Britt Reid a.k.a. The Green Hornet.
Inspector Clouseau's valet and martial arts partner in the "Pink Panther" movies.
* Rochester Van Jones, played on radio and television by Eddie Anderson on the "Jack Benny Show".
* Passepartout, in the 1872 novel "Around the World in Eighty Days" by
* Georges, created by
Agatha Christiein the Hercule Poirotnovels.
* Edward Henry Masterman, the victim's valet and a suspect in Agatha Christie's "
Murder on the Orient Express".
Figaro, the Count of Almaviva's valet from Beaumarchais' play " The Marriage of Figaro", as well as the Mozartand Rossinioperas based on it.
* Leporello, valet of
Don Giovanniin the opera by Mozart.
* Spicer Lovejoy (David Warner), valet and bodyguard to Caledon Hockley in the film "Titanic" (1997).
* La Fleche, Cleante's valet in "
* Saturnin, valet in the novel and movie "Saturnin" written by
* Mr. Probert (
Derek Jacobi), valet to Sir William McCordle ( Michael Gambon), and Robert Parks ( Clive Owen), valet to Lord Stockbridge ( Charles Dance), in the 2001 film " Gosford Park", directed by Robert Altman.
Fonzworth Bentley, the alterego of Derek Watkins, a valet to Sean "Diddy" Combs.
* Mr. Belvedere, movie and television show starring Christopher Hewitt and Bob Ueker.
Baptistin, in " The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas.
* Pork, Gerald O'Hara's valet in
Gone With the Wind.
* The Valet, an unnamed Valet in the play
No Exitby Jean-Paul Sartre.
Valet is also used for people performing specific services:
hotelvalet — an employee who performs personal services for guests.
* parking valet – a service employee who parks cars for guests, only from 1960.
* car valet — an employee who is paid to clean people's cars professionally.
* valet — a
professional wrestlingterm for a person who accompanies a wrestler to the ring - originally a beefy man but now usually a busty woman.
Other forms of valet-like personnel include:
playing cards, "Valet" is another name for a JackFact|date=August 2008.
Clothes valets are 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 liveryusually called lackey, such as the "valet de pied" ('foot varlet', compare footman). In archaic English, "varlet" also could mean an unprincipled person; a rogue.
* [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=valet&searchmode=none EtymologyOnLine]
* "Nouveau Petit Larousse Illustré" (in French, 1952)
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