Today I’m going to talk about my favourite countess, Elizabeth Bathory (7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614)Her name can also be readed as Alžbeta Bátoriová in Slovak. She was born on a family estate in Nýrbátor, Hungary, and spent her childhood at Ecsed Castle. Her father name was George Báthory of the Ecsed branch of the family, brother of Andrew Bonaventura Báthory, who had been Voivod Of Transylvania (The administration of the eastern parts of the Hungarian Kingdom.)
Her mother was Anna Báthory (1539–1570), daughter of Stephen Báthory of Somlyó, another Voivod of Transylvania, was of the Somlyó branch. Through her mother, Elizabeth was the niece of Stefan Báthory, king of Poland. As a young woman Elizabeth could speak Latin, Germand and Greek. She was also interested in science and astronomy.
The countess was engaged to Nádasdy Ferenc, in what was probably a political arrangement within the circles of the aristocracy. The couple married on May 8, 1575, in the little palace of Varannó (Slovakia). There were approximately 4500 guests at the wedding. Elizabeth moved to Nádasdy Castle in Sárvar (Hungary) and spent much time on her own, while her husband studied in Vienna (Austria). Nádasdy’s wedding gift to Báthory was his home, Csejte Castle, situated in the Little Carpathians near Trenčín.
During the trial of her primary servants, Báthory had been placed under house arrest in a walled up set of rooms. She remained there for four years, until her death. King Matthias had urged Thurzo to bring her to court and two notaries were sent to collect further evidence, but in the end no court proceedings against her were ever commenced. On 21 August 1614, Elizabeth Báthory was found dead in her castle. Since there were several plates of food untouched, her actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers’ uproar over having “The Tigress of Csejte” buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it is interred at the Báthory family crypt.
(Bathory’s Castle – Csejte Castle)
Well, up to her crimes and the legend…
Countess Elizabeth Báthory is possibly the most prolific female serial killer in history, although her guilt is debated and is remembered as the “Blood Countess” and as the “Bloody Lady of Čachtice”.
After her husband’s death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women, with one witness attributing to them over 600 victims, though the number for which she was convicted was 80. In 1610, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.
The case has led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins in order to retain her youth and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III, the Impaler (Oh God, this name is SO sexy…) of Wallachia, on whom the fictional Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula. (Some fictional histories can bring Elizabeth as Dracula’s wife.)
The case of Elizabeth Báthory inspired numerous stories during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most common motif (narrative) of these works was that of the countess bathing in her victims’ blood in order to retain beauty or youth.
This legend appeared in print for the first time in 1729, in the Jesuit scholar László Turóczi’s Tragica Historia, the first written account of the Báthory case. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this certainty was questioned, and sadistic pleasure was considered a far more plausible motive for Elizabeth Báthory’s crimes. In 1817, the witness accounts (which had surfaced in 1765) were published for the first time, demonstrating that the bloodbaths, for the purpose of preserving her youth, were legend. However, there were accounts of Bathory showering herself in the blood of her victims, and drawing her victims’ blood by biting them.
The legend nonetheless persisted in the popular imagination. Some versions of the story were told with the purpose of denouncing female vanity, while other versions aimed to entertain or thrill their audience. The ethnic divisions in Eastern Europe and financial incentives for tourism contribute to the problems with historical accuracy in understanding Elizabeth Bathory. During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Elizabeth Báthory has continued to appear as a character in music, films, books, games and to serve as an inspiration for similar characters.
In 1610 and 1611, the notaries collected testimony from more than 300 witnesses. The trial records include the testimony of the four defendants, as well as thirteen witnesses. Priests, noblemen and commoners were questioned. Witnesses included the castellan and other personnel of Sárvár castle.
According to all this testimony, her initial victims were the adolescent daughters of local peasants, many of whom were lured to Čachtice by offers of well-paid work as maidservants in the castle. Later, she is said to have begun to kill daughters of the lesser gentry, who were sent to her gyaeceum (in Ancient Greece was a building or was the portion of a house reserved for women, generally the innermost apartment) by their parents to learn courtly etiquette. Abductions were said to have occurred as well.
The descriptions of torture that emerged during the trials were often based on hearsay. The atrocities described most consistently included:
- severe beatings over extended periods of time, often leading to death
- burning or mutilation of hands, sometimes also of faces and genitalia
- biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other bodily parts
- freezing to death
- surgery on victims, often fatal
- starving of victims
- sexual abuse
The use of needles was also mentioned by the collaborators in court.
Some witnesses named relatives who died while at the gynaeceum. Others reported having seen traces of torture on dead bodies, some of which were buried in graveyards, and others in unmarked locations. According to the testimony of the defendants, Elizabeth Báthory tortured and killed her victims not only at Csejte but also on her properties in Sárvár, Sopronkeresztúr, Bratislava, (then Pozsony, Pressburg), and Vienna, and even between these locations. In addition to the defendants, several people were named for supplying Elizabeth Báthory with young women. The girls had been procured either by deception or by force. A little-known figure named Anna Darvulia was rumored to have influenced Báthory, but Darvulia was dead long before the trial.
The exact number of young tortured and killed by Elizabeth Báthory is unknown, though it is often speculated to be as high as 650, between the years 1585 and 1610. The estimates differ greatly. During the trial and before their execution, Szentes and Ficko reported 36 and 37 respectively, during their periods of service. The other defendants estimated a number of 50 or higher. Many Sárvár castle personnel estimated the number of bodies removed from the castle at between 100 to 200. One witness who spoke at the trial mentioned a book in which a total of over 650 victims was supposed to have been listed by Báthory herself. This number became part of the legend surrounding Báthory. Reportedly, diaries in Báthory’s hand are kept in the state archives in Budapest. Supposedly, the diaries are difficult to read due to the condition of the material, the old language, the handwriting and the horrific content.
László Nagy has argued that Elizabeth Báthory was a victim of a conspiracy (With the Devil, oh ye.) a view opposed by others. Nagy argued that the proceedings were largely politically motivated. However, the conspiracy theory is consistent with Hungarian history at that time. There was great conflict between religions, including Protestant ones, and this was related to the extension of Habsburg, power over Hungary. As a Transylvanian Protestant aristocrat, Elizabeth belonged to a group generally opposed to the Habsburgs.
There’s a very good and famous movie, called Bathory, directed by Juraj Jakubisko, featuring Anna Friel.
Sinopsis: The gruesome tale of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, notorious yet obscure, has been recounted by historians, writers, poets, playwrights, musicians, painters, and moviemakers. Tradition has it that Countess Bathory was the greatest murderess in the history of humankind, as documented by her entry in the Guinness Book of Records. She tortured her victims, exclusively women, before killing them. She bathed in their blood, and tore the flesh from their bodies with her teeth while they were still alive. But is that really true? In four centuries, no historical document has been found to reveal what had exactly happened. The plot of the film diametrically opposes the established legend.
Báthory is a European co-production film written and directed by the Slovak filmmaker Juraj Jakubisko. The filming started in December 2005, and the film was released in July 2008. This is Jakubisko’s first English-language film.The film is based on the story of Elizabeth Báthory, a 16th/17th century Hungarian countess. Her story takes place in a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, now Slovakia. She is infamous for killing many young women because according to legend she thought that bathing in their blood would preserve her youth. Eventually the royal authorities investigated, and she was walled up in her castle, where she died three years later.