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The Rolls Royce Iconic Bonnet Symbol is known as “The spirit of Ecstasy” In 1909 Sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes was commissioned to do a personal for Baron John Montagu, Skyes chose international model Eleanor Velasco Thornton as his model the original figure sculptured had fluttering robes and her fingers against her lips to symbolize a secret love affair and was know as “The Whisper”
The Spirit of Ecstasy, also called Emily, Silver Lady, or Flying Lady, was designed by Sykes, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, and carries with it a story about secret passion between Montagu, second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu after 1905, a pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine from 1902, and the model for the emblem, Eleanor Velasco Thornton.
Eleanor (also known as Thorn) was the secretary of John Walter, who fell in love with her in 1902 when she worked for him on the aforesaid motoring magazine. Their secret love was to remain hidden, limited to their circle of friends, for more than a decade. The reason for the secrecy was Eleanor’s impoverished social and economic status, which was an obstacle to their love. On the other hand, Montagu had been married to Lady Cecil Victoria Constance Kerr since 1889.
By 1910 personal mascots had become the fashion of the day. Rolls-Royce were concerned to note that some owners were affixing “inappropriate” ornaments to their cars. Claude Johnson, then managing director of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, was asked to commission a more dignified and graceful mascot.
He turned to Sykes to produce a mascot which would adorn all future Rolls-Royce cars and become generic to the marque, with the specifications that it should convey “the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace…”
Sykes’ brief from Claude Johnson had been to evoke the spirit of mythical beauty, Nike, whose graceful image was admired in The Louvre, but Sykes was not impressed. He felt that a more feminine representation might be apt.
It was again Miss Thornton whom he had in mind. Sykes chose to modify The Whisper into a version similar to today’s Spirit of Ecstasy. He called this first model The Spirit of Speed. Later, Charles Sykes called it “A graceful little goddess, the Spirit of Ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight and alighted on the prow of a Rolls-Royce motor car to revel in the freshness of the air and the musical sound of her fluttering draperies.”
Claude Johnson devised the description of the Spirit of Ecstasy, he described how Sykes had sought to convey the image of “the spirit of ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight……she is expressing her keen enjoyment, with her arms outstretched and her sight fixed upon the distance.”
Royce was ill during the commissioning of the flying lady. He did not believe the figurine enhanced the cars, asserting that it impaired the driver’s view, and was rarely seen driving one of his company’s vehicles adorned with the mascot.
In February 1911 Sykes presented to Rolls-Royce the Spirit of Ecstasy, which was easily recognisable as being a variation on the theme of The Whisper. The similarity was hardly coincidental because the model for both had been Miss Thornton. The sculptor’s signature appeared on the plinth and were either signed “Charles Sykes, February 1911” or “Feb 6, 1911” or “6.2.11”. Even after Rolls-Royce took over the casting of the figures in 1948 each Spirit of Ecstasy continued to receive this inscription until 1951.
The Spirit of Ecstasy was also manufactured by the British firm Louis Lejeune Ltd. for a number of years.
Eleanor died on 30 December 1915 when the SS Persia was torpedoed by a U-boat south of Crete. She had been accompanying Lord Montagu who had been directed to assume a command in India. He was thought to have been killed too, but survived and was saved after several days adrift in a life raft
Information Gathered By Wikipedia Facts