Sunday, September 11, 2011

Countess Erzsebet Bathory

Also known as Elizabeth Bathory and "The Blood Countess"

Hungary - 1560 - 1614

Elizabeth was born into a wealthy family from Transylvania in 1560.  Her uncle was Istvan (Stephen) -- the king of Poland.  Another uncle, Andras -- a Catholic cardinal.  A cousin, Thurzo -- Prime Minister.

She received a full education and in modern society would have been considered a tom-boy.

She was raised a Calvinist, despite her extended family's religious affiliations.

The Countess. Photo from

It was not uncommon for royalty to breed amongst themselves. As such, mental instability may have run in the family. As a child, it is known that she suffered from seizures and fits of rage. In later years she described eye and head pain that caused problems. It is thought that her father also suffered from similar symptoms.

In 1671, at the age of 11, young Elizabeth was already engaged to 16 year old Count Ferenc Nadasdy de Nadasd et Fogarasfold.  He would eventually become known as Hungary's "Black Hero" for his participation in battle. They had five children together -- the oldest 3 female, the youngest 2 male. The first son, Andras,died young (1596 to 1603).

In 1604 the Count died, leaving his wife to her own devices.

In between 1604 and 1610, Elizabeth committed such atrocities that to this day she is still considered to be one of the cruelest monsters in history.

With a small and close-knit entourage -- which included 4 women and 1 male -- the Countess wreaked havoc on the small surrounding towns and villages.  She was bloodthirsty, it was later said.  Her small contingent of friends collectively tortured and killed dozens of girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

The law caught up with her on December 29th 1610, in her castle.

The eye witness accounts suggest that the castle was littered with dead and dying girls -- most, if not all, of whom had been tortured in ways that even had the courts appalled, when it was recounted during the trial. (This is significant, since it was common practice for royalty to torture their servants.)

Her friends - the five who had participated in such heinous crimes alongside their mistress - were sentenced to death and faced the same torturous treatment that they had inflicted upon the girls: Their fingers were torn off; they were burned, stabbed, bitten, forced to tear off strips of their own flesh. Testimony at the trial indicated that even when the Countess was bedridden, she still managed to inflict pain ad suffering onto her victims with her fists and teeth. In some accounts it is said that she bit at least one girl to death.

In order to prosecute the Countess, a special statute was needed to strip her of her royal immunity. A second would be needed to execute her -- as king Mathias wanted. Her uncle, the Prime Minister, stepped in on her behalf, suggesting that she was insane and simply did not realize what she was doing.

Elizabeth was convicted of 80 counts of murder. In the second part of the trial a small journal was submitted as evidence. The journal was in the Countess's handwriting, and gave names and small details for more than 650 females. It could not be proven whether or not she had killed that many.

She was imprisoned for life in a tower in her castle. The entrances and windows were sealed with the exception of small slots to allow food and air. Parliament ordered  that her name was never to be spoken again in polite society.

The Countess died in her tower in the early hours between Sunday August 21st and Monday August 22nd 1614, after only 3.5 years imprisonment.

As far as the Countess lore goes -- it is said that she began her spree over blood. One day she struck a servant. The servant began to bleed. When the Countess -- a very beautiful woman -- washed it off her face, she noticed that the spots where the blood had been looked so much more youthful than elsewhere. That she bathed in the blood of virgins to protect her vitality is unsubstantitated.  Her files were sealed for more than one hundred years before anyone could access them. After that, the person who pieced the story together was a priest.

For more:

Countess Elizabeth Bathory - TruTV
Elizabeth Bathory  (There is a disclaimer on this site about the factual errors it contains.)
Infamous Lady

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