Doesn’t time just fly by? Well perhaps not, but the link is relevant as we consider the Spirit of Ecstasy – also known as The Flying Lady, which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2011.

This iconic mascot is thought to have represented Eleanor Velasco Thornton, vivacious mistress and secretary of the second Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Due to the differences in their social standing their relationship was kept a secret at the time, but Lord Montagu commissioned Charles Sykes, a young artist friend, to design a mascot for his Rolls-Royce to represent his secret lover – known initially as The Whisperer. The meaning behind the figurine was known only to a few of his closest friends and is thought to have depicted Eleanor in her fluttering robes with a finger pressed against her lip.

It became the fashion around this time to affix mascots to prestigious cars and Rolls-Royce commissioned Sykes to produce their own mascot, which was to be made available to owners who wished to adorn their cars in such a way. Sykes modified Lord Montagu’s Whisperer mascot which became The Spirit of Ecstasy and he then presented it to the company in February 1911.

The famous flying lady mascot has long since inspired owners, enthusiasts and those working for the world’s most luxurious automotive brand and to mark a year of commemorative celebration every Ghost and Phantom produced at the home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood will bear a Spirit of Ecstasy with the inscription Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary – 2011. This will be etched into the base of each statuette, in a specially selected font, ITC Willow.

Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary 2011 - the specially etched mascot will adorn the bonnet of every Ghost and Phantom produced by Rolls-Royce during 2011.

A number of events have also been planned to mark this special year.

On 6 February 2011 – the date on which Charles Sykes’ Spirit of Ecstasy design was first registered – Rolls-Royce Motor Cars will host a drive through central London. One hundred contemporary and historic Rolls-Royce cars will make their way through the capital’s streets taking in key landmarks en route, such as Berkeley Square and Conduit Street, the current and original homes of Rolls-Royce in London.

“The Spirit of Ecstasy is perhaps the most famous automotive icon, gracefully adorning the prow of Rolls-Royce models past and present,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “She was an inspiration for the founding fathers of our great company, as well as for owners and enthusiasts through the generations. Today her image continues to inspire and drive those of us who are fortunate enough to work for this unique brand, making the world’s most exclusive and desirable cars.”