Partner Pauline Alexandra Duleep Singh Terry, Dilkusha de Rohan, Mercedes de Acosta

Queer Places:
5 Quai Voltaire, 75007 Paris, France
Hôtel Bisson, 37 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris
Quai Saint-Michel, 75005 Paris, France

Poppy Kirk working in the Whitehall canteen during the war.Poppy Kirk (March 25, 1899 - May, 1986) was born Maria Annunziata Sartori, the daughter of Victor Sartori, the American Vice-Consul in Livorno, a man of Italian descent originally from Philadelphia.

She enter in an arranged marriage very young. Her husband was a never-do-well lawyer from Turin named Mario Montrezza, fifteen years her senior. They had one son, Victor, born in 1923. Poppy worked as a model in Paris. She was a friend of Jean Cocteau. She worked for Schiaparelli and the Ballets Russes. Her first marriage having failed, Poppy retreated for a while to her little villa at Santa Margherita. In 1935 she married an English writer and journalist, Geoffrey Kirk, eight years her junior. He had served in the Secret Service and joined the Foreign Office in 1939. He rose to be a minor ambassador. In London they lived at Lloyd Square. Poppy spent part of the WWII in London, where she cooked energetically in the canteen set up in the National Gallery, she and her staff serving a record 2.400 meals in one day. Sybille Bedford remembered that Poppy was “awfully good about charitable works and having cocktail parties. She was not at all intellectual. She was a terrific flirt and always succeeded in implanting herself in people’s hearts and minds.”

While working for Molyneux, she was known as “Madame Poppi”. She had several romantic relationships with women early in life, and when her first marriage failed she was rescued by the half Indian Pauline Alexandra Duleep Singh Terry, one of the daughters of Maharajah Duleep Singh. Then there was a lady called Gilberte, who had wanted to share a dwelling with her in Italy. During this later phase Poppy lived with Princess Dilkusha de Rohan, the daughter of a British Army officer, Major A.T. Wrench, stationed in India.

In the autumn of 1948 Poppy started a six-year relationship with Mercedes de Acosta. Mercedes took an apartment at 5 Quai Voltaire, Paris, and Poppy went back to work at Schiaparelli’s. During this time Poppy was friends with Allanah Harper. Later Poppy and Mercedes moved into the Hotel Bisson, also on the Quai Voltaire. At this time Mercedes’ friend, Eleonora von Mendelssohn committed suicide while Mercedes' former lover, Ona Munson, living in Paris in a depressed state with her third husband, the Russina painter Eugene Berman, succeeded in depressing Mercedes too, so much she decided to go back to New York. In 1950 Poppy joined Mercedes in New York and they returned in Paris together during the summer, sharing a duplex apartment on the Quai Saint Michel, opposite Notre Dame. Poppy also bought a farmhouse in Normandy, at Aincourt.

In 1953 Poppy worked for Schiaparelli in New York. Her son Victor returned from Bucharest where he had been employed with the State Department, and he and Poppy decided to share a flat, eventually settling for part of the year in East 35th Street. In early 1954 Poppy moved to Krech Martin at Lanmodez, near Pleubian, on the north coast of France. Poppy had remained on good terms with Geoffrey, who served as Counsellor in the British Embassy in the Hague from 1953 until 1960. Poppy returned to him and in 1960 Geoffrey Kirk became ambassador to El Salvador. Later they separated again. Geoffrey retreated to a dwelling in Hertfordshire and died in 1975, cutting Poppy out of his will. She fell on hard times, and had to work as a “Universal Aunt”, and Sybille Bedford arranged that she should cook for the PEN Club in London.

Poppy died in a nursing home in Oxfordshire in 1986, aged 87.

My published books:

See my published books