Partner Catherine Devilliers, Poppy Kirk, Mary Oliver

Queer Places:
29 Rue d'Artois, 75008 Paris, France
376 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, France
4 Savile Row, Mayfair, London W1S, UK
Pembroke Lodge, Richmond Park, Richmond TW10 5HX, UK

    Photograph of Catherine de Villiers and Princess Dilkusha de Rohan at their Sussex homePrincess Dilkusha de Rohan (nee Alis Wrench, December 30, 1898, India - 1979, Wyoming) was the founder with Vera Boréa - Contessa Boréa de Buzzaccarini Regoli, of a French fashion house in 1931 at 29, rue d'Artois, Paris, one of the first to offer luxury women's sportswear. She was friends with many artists and writers in London and Paris, including Janet Flanner, Dora Maar, Anna Pavlova, Pavel Tchelitchew, Antonina Vallentin, Dolly Wilde, and others.

The Princess, daughter of a British Army officer, Major A.T. Wrench, stationed in India, was educated at Roedean School and married in London on 14 December 1922 Prince Joseph Carlos de Rohan (1895-1931), a German aristocrat, and went to live with him at Herkules Haus in Charlottenburg, Berlin. The marriage was barely consummated due to her new husband’s homosexuality before Carlos had joined Hitler’s ranks early on. Dil met and fell in love with Catherine Devilliers, known as Katusha, a ballet dancer who had been associated with the Bolshoi Ballet. Katusha and Dil had been able to live openly together in Berlin during the 1920s where “they knew the sexual preferences of those who ran the German armed forces, and later Dil fed those ‘scabrous details’ to Ellic Howe who organised BBC broadcasts to Hitler’s fighting forces”.

After the Prince was killed in a car accident in 1931 Dilkusha moved to Paris, where she collaborated with Maximilienne Boréa. The fashion house remained open at 376, rue Faubourg St Honore until 2007. She became part of the circle of Alice B. Toklas, who thought her "bawdy" and drank her first and last Bloody Mary at a birthday party "Dil" gave her.

Photograph of Catherine de Villiers and Princess Dilkusha de Rohan at their Sussex home, Eileen Agar 1899–1991

Photograph of Eileen Agar swimming with Catherine de Villiers and Princess Dilkusha de Rohan in a river in Sussex

Catherine Devilliers

Artwork by Pavel Tchelitchew, COSTUME DESIGN FOR CATHERINE DEVILLIERS IN SPANISH DANCE AT THE BLAUE VOGEL, Made of gouache heightened with gold over pencil on paper

Black and white glass lantern slide of Mary Oliver on a bench

Black and white glass lantern slide of Eileen Agar with Mary Oliver in front of a zebra print rug

In Paris, in 1947, Princess de Rohan invited Mercedes de Acosta to a dinner hosted by Maria Annunziata Sartori, better known as Poppy Kirk. Even though Princess de Rohan and Kirk had ended their relationship years earlier and had remained friends, the Princess had invited de Acosta to Kirk's dinner because she wanted to initiate and affair with de Acosta, instead it was de Acosta and Kirk that started a lasting relationship.

When Dilkusha later moved to London she established a fashion house with Nancy Mitford at 4 Savile Row. She lived with her new lover, Mary Oliver (a London society hostess who worked for a short time at the ministry; a friend of Paul and Jane Bowles, she claimed to be an illegitimate child of Gurdjieff, she was the widow of John Scott “Jock” Oliver (1901– 1938)), and the art collector Douglas Cooper in a wing of Pembroke Lodge, a fifty-two-roomed Georgian mansion in Richmond Park.

During the war Princess Dilkusha de Rohan was head of the Swiss desk at the British Ministry of Information. There she got to know Guy Burgess and would later attend the farewell party for him given by Moura Budberg in 1950 before he left for Washington, DC.

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