> The People

The People title banner

The Spirit of Ecstacy was born out of the partnership and friendship of five people:

Portrait of John, 2nd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

Motoring pioneer and MP who championed the cause of the motorist in Parliament and in written articles. An enthusiastic owner of several Rolls-Royce cars, he was a friend of Claude Johnson, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, opening their new factory in Derby in 1908. As publisher and editor of the prestigious magazine The Car Illustrated, he employed both Charles Sykes and Eleanor Thornton.

“A man of action, and a man of thought, harnessing his dreams to the chariot of practical endeavour, a writer who saw the romance hidden in concrete things such as wood, steel, and iron, and the marvels which could be wrought with them... able through the power of his rich and glowing personality to fire the imagination of others.” Laura, Lady Troubridge.

Portrait of Charles Sykes

An artistic all-rounder, talented in commercial art, cartoons, paintings, pastels and sculptures. Encouraged by his mother he came to London after winning a scholarship to Royal College of Art. After graduating he set up his studio in South Kensington, London.

Introduced to John Montagu by the author Comyns Beaumont, Sykes became principal illustrator to The Car Illustrated magazine in 1903. He was later commissioned by Claude Johnson to produce illustrations for a lavish new Rolls-Royce brochure in 1910/11.

Portrait of Claude Johnson

A brilliant publicist, first for the Automobile Club (RAC), next as Charles Rolls’ partner at C.S.Rolls Ltd and then as Managing Director of Rolls-Royce. He was a friend of John Montagu, Charles Sykes and Eleanor Thornton.

Johnson gave Sykes his most famous commission, to design a mascot for Rolls-Royce cars. Such was his importance in cementing the partnership between Rolls and Royce, he was jokingly referred to as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce.

Charles Rolls

A visionary with great enthusiasm and energy, Rolls had a passion for engineering, motoring and aviation.

He took part, with John Montagu, in the 1000 Mile Trial organised by Claude Johnson in 1900. This was a national rally designed to show off the merits of the motor vehicle. The first three places in the rally were filled by John Montagu (Bronze), Johnson himself (Silver) and Charles Rolls (Gold).

Introduced to Henry Royce by Claude Johnson, he and Royce created the car manufacturers Rolls-Royce. Rolls was a lifelong friend of John Montagu.


Portrait of Eleanor Thornton

A vivacious and attractive young woman, talented, intelligent, ambitious and free living, she was a true new woman of the Edwardian era.

Appointed as Johnson’s secretary at the Automobile Club (RAC) in 1896, she left to become John Montagu’s secretary at The Car Illustrated for its launch in 1902.

She established herself as an artist’s model for Sykes and is believed to be the inspiration for the Spirit of Ecstasy.

Site by Surface Impression