Spirit of Ecstasy – the story

There have always been, and will always be, those whose hopes and desires are not restrained by the customs of their day. Individuals for whom the accepted norm is a challenge, not a boundary.

We call these people ‘freethinkers’ – the dreamers and muses who have the power to change the world. And more often than not, they do…

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The dreamers meet

As the twentieth century was born, a burgeoning ‘motoring-set’ emerged from the Piccadilly-based ‘Automobile Club of Great Britain’ in London.

Prominent were Charles Rolls, aristocratic showman and partner of self-made engineering genius Henry Royce. Also, Claude Johnson, the Automobile Club’s original first secretary and John Douglas-Scott-Montagu, a pioneer of automobile journalism.

And Charles Robinson Sykes, a bohemian artist and sculptor. His friendship with the maverick group led to his creating the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ – an emblem that has stood as an internationally-recognised symbol of perfection ever since.

Theirs was a band whose thirst for experience made the London’s elite appear timid in comparison. And at its magnetic core was Eleanor… 

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Although born in Victorian times, Eleanor Thornton would have personified modernity – whatever age she graced.

From a modest background, her intellect and charisma saw her rise through an elitist society. She became the central presence of an unsung, yet immeasurably influential coterie of mavericks; one that helped to shape the future of motoring.

Their lives now intertwined professionally, as well as by the bonds of friendship, it was her voice that led them. She was a mercurial force that galvanised the group, allowing them to stand together at the forefront of a new frontier of motor travel.

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Breaking boundaries

Swapping stale member’s clubs and silent reading rooms for the roar of the racetrack and the camaraderie of the workshop, this talented collective laced their liberal attitudes with the excitement of speed and competition. Led by their muse, they mastered the art of motoring at pace, over distances never believed possible and encased them in the comfort of luxury, setting the template for every sophisticated thrill seeker since. A feeling they would define as ‘ecstasy’...

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An icon is born

In 1909, Eleanor Thornton’s presence was crystallised in the form of an ornamental figurine, by the artist Charles Sykes. A figurine that, to this day, is an exclusive addition to every Rolls-Royce motor car, to encapsulate the pursuit of personal liberty, and freedom from conformity. Challenging the social conventions of the time, her appearance became instantly iconic. Known from then on as the Spirit of Ecstasy, she leans forth towards the wind, arms outstretched, her dress billowing as if in flight. A symbol of dreams – of energy, grace and beauty – the Spirit of Ecstasy embodies the heights pursued by a unique and progressive group of friends. And it remains a tribute to their vision and everything their timeless legacy stands for.

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Looking to the future

Now, her aura is free to imbue the dreams of all whose imaginations are fired by her legacy. As Charles Rolls’ desire permeates those creations that still bear his name, every statuette that slices the air atop a Rolls-Royce, personifies Eleanor’s own tilts at freedom.

Whenever luxury affords us the chance to enjoy that same illusion, we will be in the company of Eleanor’s spirit. Leading now, just as she did then. Transcending time for each new generation – a guiding light for the fearless. For those who would change the world, she is the star to set their course by.

Our muse.

The audacious Spirit of Ecstasy.

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