Exterior: A manicured country lane. Rows of oak trees and well-maintained fences converge in the distance. Two shining cars glide down the road towards the camera, one slightly ahead of the other, the sun glinting off their statuesque hood ornaments.

Interior of car 1: A tight shot of a gloved hand as it reaches into the glossy, wood-paneled glove box to pull out a jar of mustard.....

Every now and then, a brand so thoroughly inhabits its corner of the zetigeist that it becomes shorthand for an entire lifestyle. When the ad copywriter for that first 1981 Grey Poupon commercial set the scene with a pair of Rolls-Royces, he knew that the cars would communicate wealth, exclusivity, and discerning taste - and he hoped that Grey Poupon would bask in the glow of the their undeniable luxury.

So how did Rolls Royce become so synonymous with dignified opulence that even a mustard company could hope to borrow some of its cachet? The 1979 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II in our End-of-Summer Estate Auction is prompting us to look at whose endorsement of the brand made it such an undeniable signifier of luxury.
The Royals

From its inception, Rolls-Royce has had ties to Britain's landed gentry. The company was started by engineer Henry Royce with an investment from Charles Stewart Rolls, the son of the 1st Baron Llangattock of Monmouth. When Rolls and Royce began producing their cars, the royal families of Europe were some of their first and best customers. The last Tsar of Russia, Nicolas II, owned at least two early Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts.
But it was the car company's home-country royals, the Windsors, who really made Rolls-Royce their own. In 1950 the British royal family switched their official preferred auto from Daimler to Rolls-Royce, and ever since there have always been a number of Rolls-Royces in the British royal fleet. One of the very first Silver Wraith II's was custom-made for Princess Margaret in 1980. It was the Princess's longest-serving car, and took its final official journey when it drove her family to her funeral in 2002. Another model, the Rolls Royce Phantom IV was designed explicitly to ferry dignitaries - only 17 were ever made, and all were driven by heads of state.
Princess Margaret and her Rolls Royce Silver Wraith II
The Phantom IV given to then-Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1950 was also the car that delivered Prince Charles to his son Prince William's wedding in 2011 and was Meghan Markle's ride to her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018. This close association between the British royal family and Rolls-Royce has given the company a prestige that will never wear off. Could there be any better endorsement of bona fide, old world elegance than actual royalty?
Michael Caine and his Silver Wraith II
The Celebrities

As soon as the old world royals gave Rolls-Royce their stamp of approval, the new world royals - the movie stars and rock stars - followed suit. '70s and '80s stars of all kinds were seen at the wheel of a Rolls, from British imports like Michael Caine, who drove the same model Silver Wraith II being offered in the End-of-Summer Auction, to American soul sensation Marvin Gaye.
The restaurant Ma Maison, replete with Rolls-Royces
The parking lot of Ma Maison, Wolfgang Puck's first Los Angeles restaurant, and one of the most sought-after tables for the Hollywood elites wanting to see and be seen, was cheek to jowl Rolls-Royces. There was no better signal to the world that one had made it to the upper echelons of stardom than to arrive in a Rolls. And while the Rolls had a definite heyday of popularity with stars in the 70s and 80s, it remains a favorite with celebrities today. Shaquille O'Neal, David Beckham, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Lopez, and yes, Justin Bieber, all drive a Rolls-Royce.
Lady Gaga has several of the cars, and is particularly fond of vintage models. And of course, given the car's regal pedigree, our modern-day American royals Beyoncé and Jay-Z have one too.

Rolls-Royce vehicles boast so many physical details that are the epitome of luxury, from the interior leather sourced only from bulls (cow hides have stretch marks from pregnancy) raised at high altitudes (inhospitable to bugs that might bite and leave marks on the hides) to the pin stripes on the body that are hand painted by one man alone. But like the best champagnes, or the finest couture, the Rolls-Royce brand has become a luxury in and of itself. Driving one puts a motorist in the heady company of those who have been appreciating the brand's opulence for decades.

The End-of-Summer Estate Auction
Thursday, August 27th
10:00am (EDT)