Welcome back to our humble abode. Today, we pay homage to the man who is arguably Lara Croft’s staunchest yet most unobtrusive ally, supporting her unconditionally throughout the years in both the Core Design and Crystal Dynamics eras. Ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to present everyone’s favourite butler – Winston.
Name(s): Winston (Core Design-era, 1996-2001), Winston Smith (Crystal Dynamics-era, 2006-2008)
Occupation(s): Butler and housekeeper for Lara Croft
Defining characteristics: Elderly English gentleman, slow walk, involuntary bodily noises, impeccable manners
Appears in: Tomb Raider II (1997), Tomb Raider: The Golden Mask (1999), Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (1998), Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2001), Tomb Raider: Legend (2006), Tomb Raider: Anniversary (2007), Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008)
At your service, milady
Where would Lady Croft be without her faithful butler? In 1997’s Tomb Raider II, Core Design introduced us to Winston, the man behind Lara’s country mansion. We encountered him again in Tomb Raider: The Golden Mask (1999), Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (1998), and finally – in this incarnation – in Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2001).
Winston’s original design saw him as a white-haired gentleman stooped with age, wearing a dark-coloured antique suit, grey waistcoat, tie, and gold watch-chain. You could practically smell the mothballs as he trundled around Lara’s manor with his rattling tea tray. Indeed, that was his primary function until Tomb Raider: Chronicles; his slow-moving but unflappable character would follow Lara wherever she went, yawning and occasionally farting his way around the manor grounds, never uttering a word of complaint (or, indeed, any words at all). He also turned up at the end of the outdoor assault course, having swapped his suit for camo gear and helmet straight out of Dad’s Army. Precisely what function he was expected to perform in this setting was a mystery – although the target painted on his camo gear is a disturbing hint! Sensibly, he would automatically raise his tea tray as a shield if Lara’s guns were un-holstered. Old he may be, but nobody could accuse him of hesitancy towards his duties!
You missed one, milady.
A favourite trick of players who grew tired of being followed everywhere was to lure Winston into the large walk-in freezer in the kitchen, and quickly run past him and lock the door. This has become such a well-known trick that it even has its own Facebook page and frequently gets mentioned on video game webpages, blogs, and countdown lists such as WhatCulture’s “10 Embarrassing Things We All Did In Famous Video Games”.
You wouldn’t… would you?
Winston’s character was never fleshed-out in any of the games. But according to his entry in the Tomb Raider Style Guide, he was born in Connussie, Ireland, in 1924 (making him seventy-three when we first met him in Tomb Raider II). He fought in WWII and was discharged after being wounded in battle. He is said to have ‘formed a bond’ with the then Lord Croft, but no specific name is mentioned; it could conceivably be Lara’s grandfather or her father, Henshingly Croft. The short biography also mentions that Winston became a father-figure to young Lara Croft during her parents’ extensive travels.
It is not known exactly who voiced Winston for his single speaking role in Tomb Raider: Chronicles. However, this uncredited role most likely belongs to Kerry Shale, the versatile actor who also voiced Werner Von Croy and several other characters between Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness.
Winston in Tomb Raider: Chronicles
The name’s Smith, Winston Smith
In 2006, a rebooted Winston – complete with the new surname of Smith – returned alongside Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: Legend. Voiced by Alan Shearman, his revamped character design was far more detailed; he was slightly younger and considerably more sprightly than his Core Design counterpart. His dress was impeccably smart and even more formal than before, with a tuxedo coat, grey silk waistcoat, pinstripe trousers, and black bow tie.
But ‘babysitting’ was not specified under a butler’s duties, Miss Croft!
Tomb Raider: Legend even included an unlockable biography for the character (quote courtesy of WikiRaider):
“Winston’s family has been with the Crofts for generations, and he has been the family butler since he was honorably discharged from the military in his late-twenties; just as his father before him. He moved into Croft Manor to stay as the only live-in staff when his wife died, before Lara was born. He tends to all Lara’s household needs, going far beyond the duties of a traditional butler given Lara’s unusual lifestyle and pursuits, but he has never disappointed her. His loyalty to Lara, her parents, and Croft Manor is beyond question.”
Winston appeared both in-game during the Croft Manor training level, and during several cutscenes. He made a second, identical-looking appearance in Tomb Raider: Anniversary, but this time in a non-speaking and entirely passive role. He did, however, leave Lara a nice little note.
Gone snowboarding. Dinner in microwave.
Butlering in darker times
Winston Smith’s most recent appearance was in 2008’s Tomb Raider: Underworld. His biography remained unchanged and Alan Shearman returned to voice the character, but his in-game model was updated to bring it into line with the game’s improved graphics. His formal clothes were several shades darker than in the previous model, in keeping with the game’s more somber tone, and he also sported pearly grey silk gloves. His appearance in Tomb Raider: Underworld, like in Core Design’s Tomb Raider: Chronicles, was confined to cutscenes.
Did you forget to turn the oven off?
Faithful servant, timeless companion
To this day, Winston remains a favourite character in the Tomb Raider franchise. Indeed, Tomb Raider fan Alex X even went so far as to create a website dedicated entirely to Winston back in 1998! This comedy website is called “Jeeves: A Butler’s Tale”, possibly in reference to “Edmund: A Butler’s Tale” which appeared in an episode of British comedy series, Blackadder the Third. Even Hollywood’s two Tomb Raider films – Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life– included a much-younger butler character (Hillary, played by Chris Barrie), although his design and story involvement differed significantly from the games’ Winston.
Do you have any memories of Winston that you’d like to share? Would you like to see the character return in future games or films? Let us know over in the Survivor Reborn forums!
Written by J. R. Milward.
Images courtesy of J. R. Milward.
- Winston’s entry in WikiRaider
- Alex K’s “Jeeves: A Butler’s Tale“
- Alan Shearman on IMDB
- Kerry Shale on IMDB
- Blackadder the Third episode “Ink and Incapability” on IMDB
- Dad’s Army at IMDB
- Official Facebook page “Locking the butler (Winston) in the freezer”
- WhatCulture.com’s “10 Embarrassing Things We All Did in Famous Video Games”
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on IMDB
- Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life on IMDB
- Chris Barrie on IMDB
Heroes and Villains: Winston by J. R. Milward / Survivor Reborn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.