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Legacy of Service

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Blackadder: You're fired.
Baldrick: But my lord, I've been in your family since 1532!
Blackadder: So has syphilis, now get out.

Sometimes, there are servants who get very attached to the master family, so much that their children follow in their footsteps and continue serving the family's descendants. Hence the reason why there are servants who come from a very long line of faithfully serving their masters. Because of the added familial ties on top of the employer/employee relationship, this is generally presented as a reason for the servant's Undying Loyalty.

Common in anime and manga, since 'servant families' were common in Feudal Japan - some of those relationships remain today, if only symbolically, and often pop up to be played for drama, action or romance. Their masters might also have some sort of particular affection for their servants (which the servants can return), leading to relationships such as Heterosexual Life-Partners (or, less common, Platonic Life-Partners or Like Brother and Sister).

Such servants are very likely to stick with the master should they ever become an Impoverished Patrician, like the Old Retainer. The servants can take any form, be it a Maid, a Butler, The Igor, the Girl Friday, or the Kindly Housekeeper. Can lead to Bodyguard Crush. Keep in mind, of course, that the trope need not extend merely to servants, and that anything from lawyers to flower girls can be subject to this, too.

Note that this trope is about voluntarily serving the same family as your ancestors. It does not describe serfdom where nobles practically owned their servants and peasants for generations, nor does it include Indentured Servitude where multiple generations of a family have to serve a “lord” to work off debt.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach, the Feng Family is a lesser house that traditionally serves the Shihouin Clan, one of the Four Great Houses of Soul Society, by joining the Onmitsukidou; those who fail the entrance exam are exiled and disowned from the family. Sui-Feng once trained as an apprentice and bodyguard to Yoruichi, but became emotionally invested in her servitude to the point that Yoruichi's abrupt disappearance left her deeply resentful.
  • Code Geass: The Ninja Maid Sayoko Shinozaki is the 37th successor of the Shinozaki school.
  • Food Wars!: The Arato family have been the Nakiri family's personal physicians since time immemorial. Modern medicine has made the Aratos' knowledge of traditional Japanese herbal lore less valuable, but the tradition of service remains, with the 16-year-old Hisako acting as her contemporary Erina Nakiri's executive assistant.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Lan Fan and Fu come from a family that has served the Yao clan for a long time, hence why they are very loyal to Ling.
    • The flower lady who passes on Olivier's message to Mustang comes from a family that has SERVED THE ARMSTRONG LINE FOR GENERATIONS!
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden has two examples:
    • The Wakaosa clan has been serving Uruki's mother's side of the family for generations, which is vital when a prophecy states that Uruki is destined to kill his father ; when that's revealed, Uruki's mom entrusts baby Uruki to the then-leader Tauru Wakaosa, who raised him in her name until his own death; from then on, Tauru's son Soruen became young Uruki's Big Brother Mentor.
    • One of the Genbu Senshi, Inami, was the daughter of a Lady-In-Waiting in the Hokkan Royal Palace and worked as a maid girl in the court too. It was not until the event of The Evil Prince Tegiru overthrowing the legitimate heir Temudan that she needed to flee the palace due to her husband being labeled as part of Temudan's army.
  • According to supplementary material in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Hayasaka's family has served the Shinomiyas for generations and have earned their trust. She has served as Kaguya's valet since they were both seven. The two of them are very close to each other as a result (to the point that they consider themselves sisters) and their bond is the only thing that Kaguya considers more important than her crush on Shirogane.
  • Kaze no Stigma: The first story arc is powered by the rebellion of a family of wind-ninjas who have been serving the Kannagi Clan for centuries, and have finally gotten tired of it.
  • The Bakers have served the Burtons for centuries in Madlax.
  • Subaru Konoe from Mayo Chiki! comes from such a line of butlers. The position is traditionally reserved for males, but Subaru has no brothers, and so Subaru has to jump through numerous hoops (most notably posing as a boy in public) to prove herself worthy.
  • In Mouse, Mei Momozono came from the family that served Sorata Muon's family (Mouse House) for generations. For her it was more fun, though.
  • In the Negima!? anime adaptation, Setsuna Sakurazaki is turned into the member of a clan of servants to the Konoe clan. This is one of her motivations for protecting Konoka Konoe, besides the Bodyguard Crush that's actually from the original manga.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: Mori is the son of a family that has served Honey-chan's family since the Warring States Era, and despite the relationship being officially dissolved, he continues to serve and protect Honey-chan with supreme loyalty.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Ishtar family has been serving the Pharaoh for thousands of years, most of that living in an underground labyrinth protecting his tomb. Resentment over this is a huge part of what fuels Marik's Start of Darkness.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: The original story for Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred Pennyworth, whose father, Jarvis, had been Thomas Wayne's butler. This particular version of Alfred was canon until Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, which established that Alfred had himself been Thomas Wayne's butler/valet, and had worked for the Wayne family since before Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed.
    • Night of the Owls reveals that Alfred's father had hoped to dissuade him from following in his footsteps. Another comic indicates that Alfred only intended to stay with the Waynes to fill in for his deceased father until they could find someone else. He decided to stay after learning young Bruce was being bullied and bonded with the kid while teaching him self-defense.
    • Alfred's daughter Julia has also worked for Bruce Wayne, taking over her father's role when he can't - though only his Voice with an Internet Connection duties,
  • Doctor Strange's manservant Wong is from a family whose ancestor, Kan, pledged that the firstborn males of his family would be dedicated to the service of the Sorcerer Supreme.

    Fan Works 
  • A Moth to a Flame: Marcy learns that her ancestors, the Wu Clan, served the Leviathan dynasty on Amphibia for centuries, much like Olivia's family. The Wu Clan also served various lines of emperors across Eurasia, though in that case the monarchs were all Puppet Kings to the Clan.
  • In Progress, Princess Luna's maid Sundance is apparently descended from one of these. According to the side-story "Celestia vs. Time", Sundance's great-grandmother was a servant at the palace as well.
  • The author of Top Dog creates one between the Hyugas and the family of the Fourth Hokage in the Naruto branch; this immediately colors Hiashi Hyuga's reaction to Naruto once he finds out his parentage.

  • In Forrest Gump, Bubba's family has apparently been in service for at least a century. The montage which shows different generations serving seems to imply that they are serving different generations of the same family. In this case, it's treated as a bad thing, since their service originated during the time of slavery. This would be inverted when Forrest gave Bubba's mother what he felt was Bubba's share of his shrimp venture: she was now rich enough to afford a servant of her own.
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar: The narration mentions that John Winston's father had been the accountant for Henry's grandfather, just as John worked for Henry's father and Henry himself.
  • Young Frankenstein: Igor's grandfather worked for Frankenstein's grandfather.
    Igor: ...Of course, the rates have gone up.

  • In Amaranthine Saga, the Reavers attached to Stately House has formed into a generational pattern, with Michael being the fourth Ward from his family to serve Argent. This seems to be a fairly common practice with Reavers attached to various Amaranthine enclaves and clan houses, probably because it makes it slightly easier for the long-lived Amaranthine to form bonds within the fleeting existences of their Reaver companions.
  • The Butler family in Artemis Fowl has been serving the Fowl family for a long time (the earliest recorded relationship between the two families dates back to the Third Crusade). The first book posits the theory that this is actually where the word "butler" came from.
  • Subverted in the Sharon Shinn short story "Bargain with the Wind" by way of another trope: My Grandson, Myself. Nettie the Old Retainer housekeeper is actually an earth spirit who watches over the family. At the end of the story she recommends her "niece", Norah, as a replacement housekeeper, and then changes her form from an old woman into a young girl.
  • The Brands of David Eddings' The Belgariad were initially the servants to the Kings of Riva, serving as a sort of chancellor - handling the day-to-day drudge while the king makes the big decisions - and are named after the original Brand, Baron Kamion Brand, who served Riva Irongrip and his son. Later, they rule in the King's stead during the period when the line of the Rivan King is presumed extinct. However, they don't necessarily run in the same family, with each Brand choosing their successor. So dedicated are they to their duty that upon assuming office, they abandon whatever name they had before, becoming known simply as 'Brand' (which was the name of the first one to hold the office).
    • Similar to the The Lord of the Rings example, they've spend a long time taking care of Riva and its throne while waiting for the return of the true king, but once he DOES show up, they never falter, and continue to serve faithfully. (With one notable, but quickly-corrected exception and not by a reigning Brand but his youngest son.) Belgarion is initially a bit nervous about this, but Brand explains that not only was he soon going to be picking his successor anyway, waiting for the King to return and protecting the Orb of Aldur has been the entire purpose of their culture for millennia - they're utterly dedicated to the Rivan Line (which has a symbiotic relationship with said Orb), and in the case of this Brand, it's actually a relief to hand over.
    • The prequels mention Polgara's servants while she was Duchess of Erat, who started out as the relatives of Killane, who became her steward when she was first setting up her home by a) finding out that she'd been ripped off by the people she'd paid to build her house, b) beating the crap out of them until they did the job. Their descendants served her for the next several centuries, which as an immortal she found rather comforting, noting that while most people frown on nepotism it gave her a sense of the familiar. Which she technically still is, but in practice Erat is no longer a duchy and the house has been deserted - though she does still have the nominal rents as a legacy, which is an Arbitrarily Large Bank Account that she dips into occasionally (and very firmly tells her somewhat sticky-fingered father to stay away from).
  • Afanasiy Zyukin from The Coronation is a butler in the third generation.
  • In David Eddings' The Elenium there are two parallel service legacies going on — the Sparhawk line has been hereditary champions of the monarchs of Elenia for several generations (it gets broken by Sparhawk marrying Queen Ehlana — he is still her champion as well as her prince-consort, but their daughter obviously can't serve as her own hereditary champion, and Ehlana will only have one child), while Kurik's family have been squires for the Sparhawks for several generations (this does not get broken — Kurik's son Khalad is squire for Sparhawk in The Tamuli, after Kurik's death in the last book of the Elenium, and as Sparhawk is insisting that Khalad will become a knight it's implied he will end up serving in the Sparhawks' old role to the royal family).
  • Parodied in Guards! Guards!. Sybil Ramkin and Nobby Nobbs bond over the fact that Sybil's grandfather had Nobby's grandfather flogged for petty theft.
  • In Harry Potter, house-elves seem to serve one family or household from generation to generation, unless they're freed (we never see any living related house-elves, but presumably all of Kreacher's ancestors served the Blacks as well).
  • Honor Harrington: Although it's only in the first/second generation it seems likely that the Clinkscales and LaFollet's will become this for the Harrington clan. In the case of the Clinkscales two generations have served her as Regent and Honor has actually formally adopted the clan as an extended part of the Harrington clan. In the case of the LaFollets at least four members of the clan have served her in various positions (two male members as bodyguards and two female members as maids/advisors).
  • From The Hound of the Baskervilles, John Barrymore, whose family has served the Baskervilles for generations.
  • The Infernal Devices:
    • Thomas and Cyril Tanner come from a long line of people who've had a touch of the Sight, which is required for servants of the Nephilim. Needless to say, their family's been serving the Institute for a while.
    • Bridget Daly's family has served the Nephilim for generations.
  • Kitty Norville: "Kitty Goes to Washington" features a family that has served a female vampire for centuries. It turns out they are all descended from the two children she had before she became a vampire.
  • In the Liaden Universe, the family firm of dea'Gauss have served as attorneys to Clan Korval through many generations. One of the prequels reveals that it was a dea'Gauss who did the paperwork for the founding of the Clan, centuries ago, and Korval has had them on retainer ever since.
  • The Stewards of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings, sort of. Being a family tasked over to watch over the throne in absence of a king, they had been waiting for when the Rightful King Returns and should have recognized Aragorn as the rightful King of Men, but Denethor has other ideas.
  • In the RCN series, it's said that Hoggs have been serving the Learys of Bantry for many generations, including the one standing by Daniel Leary throughout the book series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Blackadder always seems to end up with a Baldrick as a servant or something or other regardless of his status. What's interesting about this is that we actually see the bond being formed in the first episode, something we don't usually see in other examples of this trope.
  • On The Nanny, Niles' father was the butler for Maxwell Sheffield's family before Niles himself became Maxwell's butler.
  • In Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, four of the Rangers come from families that serve the clan of the fifth, Shinkenred.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forgotten Realms has some long-runnners. Cormyrean court mages were direct descendants of the elven magess Alea Dahast and Baerauble Etharr, the first High Wizard of Cormyr from 26 DR, until Vangerdahast Aeiulvana retired in 1372 DR, followed by Caladnei — the first chief War Wizard supposedly not of this bloodline.

    Video Games 
  • The House of Amicitia in Final Fantasy XV has served as bodyguards to the royal family of Lucis for generations.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, House Vestra has served the Imperial royal family for generations. Hubert is the scion of his family and swears complete and utter loyalty to the Empire's princess, Edelgard, though he makes a point that his loyalty to her is personal and not simply due to said legacy. His father's betrayal of said legacy when he sided with the Imperial nobles against Edelgard's father Ionius (and in turn set off a chain of events that lead to Edelgard suffering horrific experimentation and trauma) is why Hubert utterly loathes him and sees to the Marquis Vestra's death personally when Edelgard takes power.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Sheikah of Ocarina of Time has ever been faithful to the Royal Family of Hyrule, and has served them for generations as retainers, with Impa being the latest in a long line. We see the beginning of this in Skyward Sword, with one of the first Impa's serving and protecting Zelda - though originally, and explaining why they serve Zelda specifically and the Royal Family in general, it's revealed that they served the Goddess Hylia, who took mortal form as Zelda and was reincarnated in her many descendants.
    • While not outright stated in The Wind Waker, a number of hints suggest that Tetra's pirate crew has been loyal to her family for quite some time. In particular, there's a portrait in Hyrule Castle of the pirates' near-identical ancestors serving as Princess Zelda's retainers.
    • Alfonzo from Spirit Tracks was once a member of New Hyrule's castle guard, his family having served the royal family for generations. Given that he's a descendant of Gonzo, who was Tetra's first mate, this legacy of service has lasted through two different iterations of the Kingdom of Hyrule, plus the lengthy interregnum in between.
    • Link himself in Breath of the Wild comes from a line of knights, with his father having been a member of the royal guard.
      • This isn't the first time, either - the Link of Twilight Princess is explicitly a descendant (possibly a grandson/great-grandson) of the Link of Ocarina of Time, and like his ancestor, protects Zelda. It's sometimes implied that at least a few of the other Links are related, through the Identical Grandson thing, though almost all of them (save at least for the Link of The Wind Waker) are reincarnations of the same hero, going back to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, making this a different kind of service legacy. It's also occasionally complicated by the romantic implications between Links and Zeldas, especially with the first Link and Zelda in Skyward Sword, who explicitly founded Hyrule together meaning that if there is a direct line family relationship between the Links, they might also be distant cousins of the Royal Family.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius has two such families named so far:
    • Violetta is a member of a family of Smoke Knights who have served Tarvek Sturmvoraus's family for generations (her family being a somewhat lower-ranking branch of his).
    • The Von Mekkhan family has been serving the Heterodynes for generations as their Senechals, essentially family retainers who help maintain the Castle.
    • To one extent or another, most of Mechanicsburg has a family history of serving the Heterodynes. Played for Laughs with the kid from a family of hereditary grave robbers.
  • Corrick of Plume is enchanted to serve whoever holds the amulet he was bound to.
  • It seems that the Edroch family from Tower of God has long served as personal servant of various Princesses of Jahad.

    Western Animation