Thursday, January 20, 2011


Yesterday I followed a beautiful Rolls-Royce out of my neighborhood. Considering that I do not see very many of them on the roadways I was in absolute awe at the magnificent piece of machinery. The smooth and sleek lines were gorgeous.

I must say that Rolls-Royce has surely changed over the century. We must tip our hats to our British friends across the pond for this is truly an amazing automobile.

For those who do not know who Frederick Henry Royce is I must share his life with you. He went by Henry not Frederick and did not come from a privileged upbringing. He grew up in London where he had to sell newspapers as a young boy to help feed the family after his father died (mother/four siblings). He dropped out of school of the age of 9 and never received a proper education. With help from his aunt he started an apprenticeship with Great Northern Railway company but when the money ran out he was forced to take odd jobs. However, he eventually moved to Liverpool and became a chief engineer for a theatre.

With a fascination for anything mechanical it was no wonder why he became interested in tinkering with automobiles. He purchased his first car in 1901 (2 cylinder Decauville). Below I attached a photograph so you know what a Decauville looked like. That's not Henry Royce but just an average family enjoying their luxurious ride for their time.

Obviously Henry Royce was displeased with the mechanics of this vehicle and began going to work. He created the first Rolls-Royce and called it the "Royce" in which he sold it to his friend (investor) Henry Edmunds. Mr. Edmunds was quite pleased with the new development and arranged the historic meeting between Henry Royce and Charles Rolls. Charles Rolls had a showroom located in London and agreed to take all the cars he could make. This meeting took place at the Midland Hotel Manchester.

The first Rolls Royce was manufactured in December of 1904. Can you imagine commuting in this thing? I think of Houston traffic and shutter at the thought.

Royce's detail and perfectionism built him quite a reputation across England. During WWI he was consulted by the British Army to assist them in building engines for fighter planes. Royce's Eagle engine powered the first trans-Atlantic flight from England to Australia. Nearly 50% of fighter planes during the course of WWI were created by Rolls-Royce and by the late 1920s, aero engines made up most of their business.

Henry Royce greatly assisted in developing the Merlin aero engine that came out in 1935. However, Mr. Royce passed away in 1933. The Merlin engine powered many British fighter planes during WWII such as the British Hawker Hurricane, Submarine Spitfire, De Havilland Mosquito (twin-engined), Avro Lancaster (4-engine). By the end of the war Rolls-Royce had produced over 160,000 engines.

De Havilland Mosquito (twin-engined) used in WWII

Due to his hard work and lack of poor diet (friends say he never took time away from work to eat properly) his health began declining. He struggled with his health until he finally passed away in 1933. The RR badge on the front grill changed from red to black in 1934. The Phantom III was the first Rolls-Royce without input from Mr. Royce. If you glance up to the picture of the engine you'll notice that Rolls-Royce is in red and not black. This was a signature that Henry Royce was involved with the design. Anything after 1934 is in black indicating his death.

Now I can't have a Rolls Royce post without mentioning it's unique emblem, "Spirit of Ecstasy." As most of you know that Rolls Royce's infamous signature is of that of a silver woman leaning forward with her hands stretched behind her with wings. What does this stand for and who is this woman?

This woman is referred to as the "Spirit of Ecstasy." The story is quite scandalous for it's time. There was a love affair between John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu (editor of Car Magazine 1902) and, Eleanor Velasco Thornton. Eleanor was his secretary and came from a very impoverished social and economic background. Due to Lord Montagu's position in high society, they were forced to keep their affair a secret. Lord Montagu was pressured by his family to marry a woman by the name of Lady Cecil Victoria Constance, but his heart only belonged to Eleanor and he continued his affair long after his marriage.

Eleanor died after perishing with the SS Persia (also a very interesting story I must post about in the near future). It was torpedoed by the Germans. She was on her way to accompany Lord Montagu on a trip to India. Remember, India was under British rule at the time. Montagu had asked a friend, Charles Sykes, to create an emblem of Eleanor for his Rolls Royce in honor of their love. That way she would be with him where ever he went. This was before she died and you can see her standing beside his Rolls Royce and the emblem of herself. At first, Sykes sculpted her with a robe (her nightie) and a finger to her lips to illustrate their secret love affair. The figurine was called, "The Whisper." During this time emblems had become fashionable and Claude Johnson, who was the manager of Rolls Royce, asked Sykes to create an emblem for the Rolls Royce series. With permission from Montagu he showed Claude Johnson "The Whisper." However, Mr. Johnson asked for a few changes but otherwise loved it. They decided to call it "Spirit of Ecstasy."

If I were to own a Rolls Royce this would be me top choice, a Rolls Royce Roadster. I hope you enjoyed my little post.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post!!!
Kisses and nice weekend.

Ruth said...

Wonderful post. I had never heard those stories. And yes those cars are beautiful