Do you need help? Please contact our support team from 9 to 17 CET via

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars PressClub · Article.


Fifth of the principal characters in the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars foundation story to be highlighted in the ‘Makers of the Marque’ series; John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu. Motoring pioneer, magazine proprietor, influential parliamentarian and devoted Rolls‑Royce owner, whose Silver Ghost was the first motor car in history to carry the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, was instrumental in shaping motoring's place within wider society.

Makers of the Marque

Press Contact.

Andrew Ball
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Tel: +44-1243-384-064

send an e-mail


Andrew Ball
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars


A brief overview of the life and career of The Hon. John Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, born 10 June 1866

  • Motoring pioneer, magazine proprietor, influential parliamentarian and devoted Rolls‑Royce owner, whose Silver Ghost was the first motor car in history to carry the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot – inspired by his assistant, Eleanor Velasco Thornton
  • Fifth in a series profiling the principal characters in the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars foundation story as the marque celebrates its 120th anniversary in 2024
  • Insights into the people, personalities and intertwined relationships that indelibly shaped the marque’s creation, development and lasting legacy
  • Each account underlines and celebrates the essential human dimension of ‘the best car in the world’

“Almost since its foundation, Rolls-Royce has been known as ‘the best car in the world’. It first received that accolade from John Montagu, part of the small circle of highly influential motoring pioneers who first brought Rolls-Royce into being, and then to international prominence. As proprietor of one of the earliest and most respected motor magazines, he was crucial in promoting the marque; as an MP, he was instrumental in shaping motoring’s place within wider society. And through the complex personal connections that, are so central to the Rolls-Royce foundation story, he has an enduring place at the heart of the brand to this day.”
Andrew Ball, Head of Corporate Relations and Heritage, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu was born on 10 June 1866, the eldest son of Lord Henry Scott, later 1st Baron Montagu of Beaulieu. Montagu was fascinated by engineering and, after attending Eton and Oxbridge, briefly pursued a practical training on the railways, precisely the path that the similarly aristocratic – and equally Honourable – Charles Stewart Rolls, 11 years his junior, would also follow.

Montagu’s prospects were as splendid as his full name suggests, with a barony and the financial security of his father’s estate in Hampshire awaiting him in due course. In the interim, he needed to make a living and, in 1895, he became a Member of Parliament (MP) for the New Forest constituency. But his life’s true passion was the motor car. A successful competitive driver, he became one of the motor car’s early political champions and greatly influenced the relaxation of the restrictive motoring laws then in force.

In 1898, Montagu bought his first car – a Daimler – and immediately joined the Automobile Club of Great Britain & Ireland (ACGB&I), the forerunner of The Royal Automobile Club (RAC). There, he met fellow member Charles Rolls and the Club’s larger-than-life Permanent Secretary, Claude Johnson. The three soon became close friends and enjoyed competing in the era’s major motoring trials, frequently sharing the spoils between them. One such event was the ‘One Thousand Mile Trial’ of April 1900, run by Johnson under the ACGB&I’s auspices and sponsored by Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, who owned the Daily Mail newspaper. Montagu was among the first entrants and the only MP to take part; he received a bronze medal for completing the 20-day event with his Daimler, while Rolls was awarded the gold medal as the winner.

In the early 20th Century, motoring was still an expensive hobby that Montagu struggled to sustain on his MP’s salary. To supplement his income, he took his friend Alfred Harmsworth’s advice and started one of the country’s earliest dedicated motoring journals. First published on 28 May 1902, it was called The Car Illustrated, although its masthead bore the imperious and all-encompassing banner ‘A Journal of Transport by Land, Sea and Air’.

By 1906 the magazine was well established, with Montagu acting as commissioning editor, editor and contributor. Like every self-respecting journalist, he was always looking for his next scoop, and his close friendship with Rolls and Johnson meant he was kept fully abreast of the latest products, innovations and competitive successes at Rolls-Royce, founded two years earlier. For their part, Rolls and Johnson had the inestimably valuable support of both the country’s most prestigious car magazine and an influential member of the legislature keenly interested in motoring matters.

This relationship was strengthened further in 1906 when Montagu, who had succeeded his father to become 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu the previous year, bought a Rolls-Royce of his own, the ‘Light 20 H.P.’ model. Nevertheless, he was quite clear that journalistic integrity trumped personal affiliations: Rolls-Royce could be assured of positive coverage in his magazine, for as long as it continued to produce the country’s finest motor cars.

Produce them it did, and in ever-increasing numbers, to the extent that by 1907, it was obvious to the Rolls-Royce directors that their existing works in Cooke Street, Manchester were not large enough to satisfy demand. Accordingly, Henry Royce designed and oversaw the construction of a new, purpose-built factory at Nightingale Road in Derby, which was officially opened before an audience of dignitaries on 9 July 1908.

Charles Rolls welcomed the guest of honour, announcing: “I now have the honour and pleasure of introducing Lord Montagu of Beaulieu – an introduction, however, which is merely a formality; for, as you know, his is a name known to all as a pioneer motorist, one who has educated both the House of Commons and the House of Lords to the importance of the motor car as a factor of civilisation; one who may, in fact, be regarded as one of the most important factors in motoring politics. We therefore as a company, and I am sure all the rest of those present, very greatly appreciate the compliment he has paid us in coming here to perform this little ceremony.” 

But Montagu’s greatest and most enduring compliment would come the following year. On 13 November 1908, an advertisement in The Times newspaper stated: “In July, Lord Montagu declared that the six-cylinder Rolls-Royce was the best car in the world”. This is the earliest known use of the soubriquet, still rarely attributed correctly, that remains synonymous with the marque to this day.

However, not everyone showed the same level of respect. In 1910, Johnson became aware of a disturbing new fashion among Rolls-Royce owners of attaching a comical mascot to the front of their motor car. This, he rightly concluded, was detracting from the elegance of the Rolls‑Royce radiator: how the high-minded and fastidious Royce reacted to such frivolousness is easy to imagine.

Montagu’s own Rolls-Royce also sported a mascot, but this was of an altogether different stamp. Named The Whisper, it was sculpted by Charles Sykes, a well-known Royal Academician and commercial artist who worked for Montagu’s magazine as an illustrator. It depicted a young woman in flowing robes with a finger to her lips, modelled on Sykes’s long-time muse, Eleanor Thornton. Impressed, Johnson commissioned Sykes to design the official Rolls-Royce mascot, known worldwide today as The Spirit of Ecstasy: fittingly, Montagu’s second Silver Ghost was the first motor car in history to carry it.

Montagu remained an enthusiastic Rolls-Royce owner until his death in 1929. He was a staunch friend of the marque for a quarter of a century and one of the first in a long line of wealthy, well-connected owners who have added lustre to the Rolls-Royce name through the decades. In 1952, his son Edward, the 3rd Baron, founded the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in tribute to him: a substantial collection of Spirit of Ecstasy figurines, and Sykes’s original The Whisper, are among its most popular and cherished exhibits.

Article Offline Attachments.

Article Media Material.

My.PressClub Login



#Cullinan Series II proves once more that the future of Rolls-Royce will be shaped in partnership with its clients and characterised by exquisite contemporary crafts.

Click here

CO2 emission information.

The fuel consumption given in miles per gallon (and litres per 100km) and the CO2 emission given in grams per kilometre represents official combined values. Figures may vary depending on driving style and conditions. Consumption data is determined in accordance to the ECE driving cycle.

Further information about the official fuel consumption and the official specific CO2 emissions for new passenger automobiles can be found in “The Passenger Car Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information Regulations” in the United Kingdom. For emission data, labelling and guidelines relating to your local market please contact your nearest sales outlet or local authority website.

Change Search Settings.

Press Release
Press Kit
Fact & Figures
  • Language of Attachment
  • Arabic
  • Chinese - simplified
  • Chinese - traditional
  • Czech
  • Dutch
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Hindi
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Malay
  • Marathi
  • Multilingual
  • Polish
  • Russian
  • Slovakia
  • Spanish
  • Tamil
  • Thai
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese