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  • Ahmed Saleh

Eleanor Velasco Thornton's life and connection to Rolls-Royce's Spirit of Ecstasy

Eleanor Velasco Thornton's life is intertwined with the early days of Rolls-Royce and the creation of its iconic Spirit of Ecstasy mascot. Born on April 15, 1880, in Stockwell, south-west London, Eleanor's early life remains somewhat mysterious. However, her impactful contributions to the automotive world and her role as the muse for the Spirit of Ecstasy are well-documented.

Eleanor started her professional career as an assistant to Claude Johnson, the General Secretary of the Automobile Club of Great Britain & Ireland. Johnson later became a crucial figure in the partnership between Charles Rolls and The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls that led to the foundation of Rolls-Royce. Eleanor's work with Johnson connected her to the burgeoning automotive industry of the time.

Outside of her professional life, Eleanor lived a fascinating double life. She resided at The Pheasantry in Chelsea, a hub for artists and creatives, where she posed as a life-model for resident artists like Charles Sykes, an illustrator. It was through this connection that Eleanor's path crossed with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who was starting a motoring magazine called The Car Illustrated and needed an illustrator - Charles Sykes.

Montagu was captivated by Eleanor's intelligence and hired her as the Office Manager for his magazine. This marked the beginning of a clandestine affair between Montagu and Eleanor. Meanwhile, Charles Sykes, who had previously used Eleanor as a model for his illustrations, designed a mascot for Montagu's Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. This mascot, known as 'The Whisper,' featured a young woman with a finger to her lips in fluttering robes. It is widely accepted that Eleanor was the model for this iconic mascot.

Tragically, Eleanor's life was cut short in 1915 when the SS Persia, a P&O passenger ship, sank in the Mediterranean. She was among those who perished in the disaster, leaving behind a legacy intertwined with Rolls-Royce's early history and the enduring symbol of luxury and elegance represented by the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.

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