The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter


A descendant of the English branch of the Rothschild family, the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, or 'Nica' as she was affectionately called, was considered as one of the most important patrons and friends of modern jazz musicians.  She and the Monk family, in particular, were very close. 

Raised in France, Nica was somewhat of a rebel.  During World War II she fought for the Resistance while her brother was a courier for Winston Churchill, delivering messages to Washington. It was while he was in the U.S. that he met pianist Teddy Wilson and took lessons from him, passing on his love of jazz to his sister, Pannonica.  Not long after marrying Jules de Koenigswarter, a pilot during the war who joined the French diplomatic corps, Nica and her husband moved to Mexico City.  She quickly became disinterested in Mexico and, evidently, her marriage, and in 1951 headed New York City where she rented a suite at the Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue.

She plunged into the New York jazz scene, attracting scores of musicians to her apartment for rest, relaxation, conversation and impromptu jam sessions.  Quickly she became somewhat of a patron to jazz musicians, helping them out with money, a place to stay, and sometimes legal assistance.  Her suite at the Stanhope, unfortunately, is perhaps best known for being the place where Charlie Parker died in 1955. 

Because of Parker’s death, the Baroness was forced to leave the Stanhope, so she took up residence at the Bolivar Hotel where she lived for many years.  Thelonious Monk’s composition “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are” was named for the hotel, in which she resided until she bought a house overlooking in Weehawken, New Jersey, along the Hudson River.

Nica first met Monk in Paris in June, 1954, during the 'Salon du Jazz 1954' concert.  She was introduced to Monk backstage by a mutual friend - pianist Mary Lou Williams – and remained lifelong friends.  The Baroness proved to be  a constant fount of support for Monk and his family; she helped get his cabaret card reinstated after it was revoked on at least two different occasions, and provided financial assistance when Monk had trouble finding getting work.  Most importantly, in 1972, when Monk became so ill that he needed special attention, he moved into a room in the Baroness’s New Jersey home.  There Nellie continued to take care of him until his death in 1982.  Eight years later, The Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter died at the age of seventy-four.