Born in 1913, Kathleen Annie Pannonica, or Nica, was the youngest of the four Rothschild children. As a child of an incredibly wealthy banking family, Nica had it all.
She lived the life of a fairy princess, complete with servants and the mansion that goes along with extreme wealth. A society debutante, Nica captured the heart of Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, whom she married and followed into war.
Nica was active in the war efforts and gave her husband five children. Somehow, this was not enough, for, after hearing the music of jazz musician Thelonious Monk, Nica -- much like the legendary children following the Pied Piper of Hamlin -- began what would become a lifetime obsession with Monk, his music and the entire jazz scene of the 1950s.
She became his patron and benefactor. She also became his friend, loving him and his unique sound more than she did her family, more than she did the other musicians in his circles, and more than she d id her own reputation.
Nica did the unspeakable when she traded her family for a life filled with cigarette smoke, nightclubs, furs and the sounds of jazz and was ostracized by the society who had held her family in such high regard.
This book offers a historical perspective of the Rothschilds, World War II, and the 1950s jazz scene in New York City as well as insights into Thelonious Monk. A native of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Monk became one of the greatest, if not the greatest, jazz musicians of all time.
Hannah Rothschild is the ideal candidate to write this biography of her great-aunt. Privy to interviews with people both related to and who ran in the Rothschild social circles, she has depended largely upon interviews and family archives to flesh out The Baroness.
Hannah has written and directed various documentaries and films that have appeared on the BBC, HBO, the London Film Festival, among other creative venues.
She is currently the Senior Editor at Large of Harpers Bazaar in the UK.
She lives in London, where she is a trustee of the National Gallery and of Waddesdon Manor.
Beautiful, romantic and spirited, Pannonica,
known as Nica, named after her father’s favorite moth, was born in 1913 to
extraordinary, eccentric privilege, and a storied history. The Rothschild
family had, in only five generations, risen from the ghetto in Frankfurt to
stately homes in England. As a child, Nica took her daily walks, dressed in
white, with her two sisters and governess around the parkland of the vast house
at Tring, Hertfordshire, among kangaroos, giant tortoises, emus, and zebras,
all part of the exotic menagerie collected by her uncle Walter. As a debutante,
she was taught to fly by a saxophonist and introduced to jazz by her brother
Victor. She married Baron Jules de Koenigswarter, settled in a château in
France and had five children. When World War II broke out, Nica and her five
children narrowly escaped back to England, but soon after, she set out to find
her husband who was fighting with the Free French Army in Africa, where she
helped the war effort by being a decoder, a driver and organizing supplies and
In the early 1950s Nica heard “‘Round Midnight”
by the jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk and, as if under a powerful
spell, abandoned her marriage and moved to New York to find him. She devoted
herself to helping Monk and other musicians: she bailed them out of jail, paid
their bills, took them to the hospital, even drove them to their gigs, and her
convertible Bentley could always be seen parked outside downtown clubs or up in
Harlem. Charlie Parker would notoriously die in her apartment in the Stanhope
Hotel. But it was Monk who was the love of her life and whom she cared for
until his death in 1982.
Hannah Rothschild has drawn on archival material
and her own interviews in this quest to find out who her great-aunt really was
and how she fit into a family that, although passionate about music and
entomology, was reactionary in always favoring men over women. Part musical
odyssey, part love story, The Baroness is a fascinating portrait of a
modern figure ahead of her time who dared to live as she wanted, finally, at
the very center of New York’s jazz scene.
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