Now, the tale of the relationship between Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who commissioned the Rolls Royce figurine, and his secretary Eleanor Thornton, is to be turned into a film by Lord Attenborough, the Oscar winning director of Gandhi and Shadowlands. The film, The Silver Ghost, which will star Christian Bale, of Batman Begins and Empire of the Sun, will tell the story of the 13-year affair between John Montagu, who later became Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and Eleanor Thornton, his secretary.
It will reveal that Montagu's wife, Lady Cecil, condoned the relationship and even befriended Thornton, who went on to have Montagu's child. For his part, Montagu was so infatuated with "Thorn" that he asked her to model for an emblem to place on the bonnet of his Rolls.
A mutual friend, Charles Sykes, who was an artist and sculptor, crafted a figure of her in fluttering robes, pressing a finger to her lips to symbolise the secret of their love.
Officially called The Spirit of Ecstasy, but known as The Whisperer by those who were party to the secret affair, the symbol would go on to inspire subsequent designs for Rolls-Royce emblems.
Montagu, a passionate motoring enthusiast and Tory MP, fell in love with Eleanor in 1902 after she began working for him on his car magazine, The Car Illustrated. But the relationship was kept secret from all but a tiny circle of other members of the family and friends.
Montagu's son, the present Lord Montagu, is acting as a consultant on the 40 million pounds film.
"It is a story that has aristocratic intrigue and glamour, a passionate love affair at its heart and plenty of thrills and spills along the way. Very few people will be familiar with the names of the couple at the heart of the story. But everyone knows the piece of sculpture which was inspired by their love for each other," the Telegraph quoted a source close to the project, as saying.