The word “chauffeur” comes from the French for a stoker and was originally used both for the men who kept the fire going in steam locomotives and those who started the engines in the first steam-driven cars. Today it is associated with the drivers of luxury cars and limousines.
The first Rolls-Royces were sophisticated machines and quite complicated to drive, and early chauffeurs often lacked the necessary skills. In 1922 the firm decided to set up an exclusive Chauffeur School, where drivers were schooled in maintenance, mechanics, manoeuvres, safety, first-aid, etiquette and special driving exercises in adverse conditions. Rolls-Royce also offered its technical service as standard, with staff on hand to travel anywhere in the world the car owner required.
The continuance of the norm that a Rolls-Royce should not be driven by its owner attests to the quality and professionalism of the courses. The firm also produces a training guide with everything a good chauffeur needs to know, covering aspects such as personal appearance and the look of the car, etiquette and uniform, manners and punctuality and how to handle luggage in a station.
One of the exercises is said to consist of driving at high speed with a tray of full champagne glasses on the trays in the rear of the car. Spill a drop and you fail!