Who is the Rolls Royce flying lady?
Since the early 1900s, Rolls Royce automobiles have been equipped with an iconic silver hood ornament; a woman, her head pointed forward, arms stretched behind her, her clothing flowing in the wind. While it’s an all-around cool emblem, there’s actually a lot more to the story.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu commissioned his friend, the famous sculptor Charles Sykes, to design a mascot for his Rolls Royce. What Sykes created, which would come to be known as the Spirit of Ecstasy, became the hood ornament that adorned decades of Rolls Royce automobiles, and is still standard on Rolls Royce cars today. The Spirit of Ecstasy was modelled after the British actress Eleanor Thornton, with whom Montagu maintained a long and secret affair. Besides the fact that he was married, his relationship with Thornton could never have been public, due to her impoverished social and economic status. Therefore, the Spirit of Ecstasy was designed as an homage to their unspoken love affair. Eleanor died in 1915, when the ship she was on with Lord Montagu was torpedoed by a U-Boat south of Crete.
From 1911 to 1914, the flying lady was made of silver, before being changed to a nickel or chrome alloy to deter theft. On modern cars, she can be seen in stainless steel, 24K gold plated steel, illuminated crystal, or diamond studding from the factory. All Rolls Royce cars equipped with the hood ornament have a button to retract the flying lady into the hood and are designed to automatically retract the flying lady if she is struck or tampered with to prevent theft.
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