I Just Learned The History Of The Rolls-Royce Mascot And It Is So Sordid

I had no idea.
Peter Phipp via Getty Images

It’s a story of mystery, models, and sordid affairs.

No, we’re not revealing the new James Bond film to you, this is actually the history behind the famous Rolls-Royce mascot.

Starting way back in the 1930′s, the story behind the Rolls-Royce mascot, which is called, ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’, is something directly from a film, tbh.

The mascot was modelled after Eleanor Thornton and Andrew Ball, Head of Corporate Relations and Heritage at Rolls-Royce said this about her: “Secrets, sacrifices and the ever-present risk of scandal dominated her tragically short but intense and colourful life.

“She was a strong, intelligent, self‑assured and highly influential woman in an automotive world that was then almost entirely male-dominated.”

The affair behind the model

In her early adulthood, Eleanor Thomson worked as an assistant to Claude Johnson, General Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain & Ireland (later the RAC) and soon-to-be business partner of The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls.

However, of an evening, she worked as a life model for the residents in her bohemian apartment building, including for an illustrator called Charles Sykes.

Later, she started working at an automotive magazine called The Car Illustrated, where she worked as an office manager under somebody named John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, who she embarked upon what Rolls-Royce described as a, ‘lengthy, clandestine’ affair with.

According to Rolls-Royce: “Montagu could handle the writing, editing and publishing himself; but for images, he needed a professional illustrator.

“In one of those odd coincidences that so often shape history, the man he hired was Charles Sykes.”

While Thomson and Sykes knew each other under very different circumstances, they kept it professional and she even modelled for him again. Sykes produced a mascot for the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, called ‘The Whisper’ which was a small aluminium statuette of a young woman in fluttering robes with a forefinger to her lips.

Rolls-Royce said: “It has been confirmed that Eleanor was the model: whether the mascot was a token of appreciation from Sykes to his friend and employer, or made at Eleanor’s instigation as a gift for her lover, remains a mystery.

“Whatever the truth, Montagu displayed it on every Rolls-Royce car he owned until his death in 1929; perhaps as a discreet acknowledgment of his love for Eleanor, which he kept secret for so long.”

How the love story came to an end

Eleanor was one of the hundreds who died when the P&O passenger ship SS Persia sank in 1915 but Montagu was one of the few survivors.

Montagu could never speak of his broken heart but she was at least with him in spirit on his cars.

Un. Believable.