The Spirit of Ecstasy wasn’t an original Rolls Royce feature. The fashion was to have your own emblem made to personalise your vehicle. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, asked his friend Sykes, recently graduated from London’s Royal College of Art to design his mascot, and it’s believed to have been modelled on his secretary, mistress and love of his life, Eleanor Velasco Thornton.
Charles Sykes described it as “a graceful little goddess, the Spirit of Ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme 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.“
When Rolls Royce noticed that some personal mascots did not reflect their vision of their beautiful vehicles, they commissioned Sykes to manufacture the Spirit of Ecstasy for them.
Now it’s 100 years old and a huge part of their brand identity. At times designers must have been tempted to modernise it, but apart from a smaller version for sports cars and the US “Flying Lady” it stays the same.