The Baronness is Hannah Rothschild’s extraodinary account of her attempt to trace the life of her rebellious great-aunt Nica, surely one of the twentieth century’s most fascinating women.
A Rothschild by birth and a Baroness by marriage, beautiful, spirited Pannonica – known as Nica – seemed to have it all: children, a handsome husband and a trust fund. But in the early 1950s she heard a piece by the jazz legend Thelonious Monk. The music overtook her like a magic spell, and she abandoned her marriage to go and find him.
Arriving in New York, Nica was shunned by society but accepted by the musicians. They gave her friendship; she gave them material and emotional support. Her convertible Bentley was a familiar sight outside the clubs and she drank whisky from a hip flask disguised as a Bible. Her notoriety was sealed when drug-addicted saxophonist Charlie Parker died in her apartment. But her real love was reserved for Monk, whom she cared for until his death in 1982.