Long ago there was this nobleman who was in love with a commoner, John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu (second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) fell in love with his secretary Eleanor Velasco Thornton (Thorn). Theirs’ was a sad love story, which remained hidden and their courtship secret, until her death on board the SS Persia (torpedoed during the war) on their way to India, where the Baron was to assume command.
Baron Scott-Montagu could never marry Thorn because, he was already married but he wasn’t going to let the memory of his love fade away, he was going to immortalise her and how! Well, he was also an early pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine. His interest in cars and his solid financial status meant that he owned a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost and thus he asked his friend and sculptor, Charles Robinson Sykes, to design him a mascot for his Rolls Royce, in Eleanor’s image.
And so he did; a female figurine in fluttering robes, one forefinger against her lips – to symbolize the secret of their love affair and he called it The Whisper and attached it on the bonnet of the Baron’s Rolls Royce, as his personal mascot. It is now on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.
Later, when Rolls Royce was concerned about the other, what they considered inappropriate mascots that owners were attaching to their cars, they also sought the help of Sykes to create for them a dignified and graceful mascot. The initial brief was to create the mascot in the image of the mythical beauty, Nike, but Sykes, who wanted a more feminine representation, turned to the image of Eleanor Thorn and he called the first model the Spirit of Speed. He later described it as “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.” And that is how the Spirit of Ecstasy name stuck. She is also called “Emily”, “Silver Lady” or “Flying Lady”.
Sykes also later made the lower, kneeling version, to give a clearer view to the driver, and the new ones, since 2003, are smaller yet, and retractable as a safety measure.
And that is how, Baron Scott-Montagu’s lady love was immortalised. Eleanor Velasco Thornton – The Spirit of Ecstasy.