My friends in Dubai know Rolls Royce is one of my favourite brands not only because I love the car but also because the people behind it are so amazing, awesome and a delight to be with. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of being a VIP guest of Rolls Royce CEO, Torsten Muller in Abu Dhabi with the Who’s Who of the UAE. It was naturally an incredible experience catching up with various members of the Millionaire Group who I don’t fraternise with enough due to my personal and professional commitments. Although Rolls Royce is not a brand people will normally associate me with as a petrol head chick who hangs out with cars you normally find on the race tracks, recently though I’ve become fond of their cars because the people who work at Rolls Royce or AGMC have become my extended family and are always there to cheer me up with their smiling friendly faces whenever I pop into their showroom or events.
Everyone who has met Torsten will tell you how amazing he is as a person and as a leader and you get inspired by his passion for the Rolls Royce brand. He explained in detail the story behind the Spirit of Ecstasy, the enigmatic symbol of Rolls-Royce when I first met him and I thought about this mysterious woman many times since, often drawing comparisons or being intrigued about her every time I sat in a Rolls Royce since.
Catching up with Torsten briefly again this week reminded me that perhaps I should write something about Spirit of Ecstasy especially as this year she celebrates her centenary. To commemorate the occasion, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars had commissioned world-renowned British photographer Rankin to create a series of one hundred contemporary images, each one inspired by the Spirit of Ecstasy. The pieces were wonderful and I still have pictures of this amongst my favourite photographs so far this year. This week though, also in celebration of the centenary of the Spirit of Ecstasy, the distinctive hood ornament adorning all Rolls-Royce models, a diamond-enrobed commemorative model valued at $250,000 has been created by Mouawad Jewellers. Its stunning to say the least – I put a picture of this online but my BB camera didn’t do any justice to it.
Both Mouawad guys and the gorgeous Alaa of Rolls Royce later sent me their cool versions of the pictures and yes….it looks awesome. My laughing partner who always seems to bring the cheeky side of me to the forefront, Margaret is behind the publicity of Mouawad and she also talked about the Mouawad Centennial version of the Rolls Royce Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. The low down on the jewelled ‘Flying Lady’ is that apparently three of Mouawad’s master craftsmen spent 350 hours meticulously arranging and placing 2,300 brilliant cut diamonds onto the symbol (value – a whopping US$250,000/-).
Originally called the “Spirit of Speed”, the “Spirit of Ecstasy” first appeared on the top of a Rolls-Royce in 1911. The inspiration for the Spirit of Ecstasy was commissioned by the 2nd Baron John Scott Montagu of Beaulieu. He asked his friend Charles Sykes to design the mascot, which is thought to be modelled on Eleanor Velasco Thornton who was the secretary and lover of the Baron Montagu. Eleanor had bewitching beauty, intellect and spirit but didn’t have the social status to marry the man with whom she had fallen in love. (sniff). The small statue Sykes created depicted a young woman in fluttering robes with one forefinger placed on her lips.
Eleanor’s relationship with John remained a secret for ages, mainly because both lovers acted with utmost discretion. John was a pioneer of the automobile in England. From 1902 he was editor of the “The Car” and Eleanor was his secretary. Friends of the pair knew of their close relationship but they chose to overlook it. I remember being so sad to find out that Eleanor was not able to enjoy the success of the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy as she lost her life while accompanying Lord Montagu to India. He survived but grieved losing the love of his life. It is such a romantic but sad story…..every time I see the symbol, I feel the strength of the love of this couple and visualise Eleanor as an iconic beauty, with power, grace, mystique and intrigue.
I am sure that while Rolls Royce cars are uber cool, the story of the Spirit of Ecstasy is equally fascinating, mysterious and heart warming.