The hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory, the daughter of the noble army George Bathory of Ecsed and Anna Báthory, lived in one of the richest, most abundant and influential families of Hungary. She had an older brother, Stephen, and two younger sisters, Sofia and Clara.
The House of Bathory of Ecsed was involved in a protracted power struggle with the Habsburgs to Hungary, Transylvania and Poland.
1571, Elizabeth (eleven years) was engaged with the Count Franz Nadasdy, they married in 1575 and finally lived on Castle Čachtice. The Countess gave birth in the age of 25 to 38 years to five children, who had the name Anna, Peter, Andrew, Catherine and Paul. Ursula and Andrew both died as children and eventually Paul was the principal heir of the couple.
Her husband was often away from home because of campaigns and fought as a commander in the Royal Hungary against the Ottomans (Turks Long War). He carried the nickname "Black Knight", because he took pleasure in torturing Turkish prisoners.
Elizabeth (after marriage Elizabeth Báthory-Nádasdy) ran the household of the castle: she was managing the heritage of Kanizsay and Nádasdy. The Kingdom of Hungary, which was under the rule of the Habsburg family, indebted very high to the Nádasdy to finance the war.
In 1604, Franz died of disease, and Elizabeth inherited his entire fortune. Because her brother Stefan was childless, he transferred his sister Elizabeth in his will, and finally died a year after Franz' death, which she inherited his fortune. The countess had among other goods and property from Transylvania to Austria. She appears now as head of the family, what was very unusual for a woman.
Six years later, on 29 December 1610, Count Georg Thurzo of Bethlenfalva (cousin of the Countess Bathory) stormed and raided the castle Čachtice by order of King Mathias II of Hungary. 1611 Elizabeth was placed under house arrest, because she allegedly committed multiple murders of servants. During the trial she was not allowed to attend either to comment on it. In the process they interviewed some of her servants (they were co-defendants) and witnesses. The statements were voluntary, and once again obtained under torture. Two of the fingers were torn down and afterwards they were burned alive. Another servant was beheaded and his body burned at the stake.
King Mathias II demanded for the Countess Elizabeth Bathory the death sentence, which George's cousin Count Thurzo did not agree with. Instead, she was immured in a small room in her castle Čachtice and until her death she only had contact to the outside world through a small hole in the wall.
Elizabeth lived four years in her cell, died on 21 August 1614 and was buried four days after her death in the church at Čachtice.
But why should the castle Čachtice be stormed by King Mathias II?
There are some interpretations and legends.
The gruesome serial killer
An interpretation of their history is that the Countess Elizabeth Bathory was a serial killer. According to court documents, she has attracted a lot of girls on their castle to torture them naked with the aid of her servants by bondage, beatings, cuts, bites, burns, dousing with water in the frost, slapped and stabbed.
Her cousin, Count Georg Thurzo found after the storming of the castle Čachtice the first girls bodies. In the diary of Báthory, which has not been published, the killings of 650 girls were described.
Another possibility is that her behavior was only more extreme than the other high nobles. So she was only convicted because she not only tortured and killed peasant girls, but girls from the lower nobility.
The legend of serial killer and blood countess
According to various legends behind this acts is another, much more cruel story:
As a child, the Countess Elizabeth Báthory should have made bad experiences. Her brother Stefan should have been a Satanist, her aunt Klara a homosexual sex-obsessed and her cousin Anna a witch who sacrificed her own son during a ritual.
When Elizabeth was nine years old, it should have been a peasant revolt. Bauer rebels broke in the castle Ecsed in which she lived. The nurses saved her and her two sisters through a secret tunnel to the outside and hid Elizabeth in a tree. It should have been too late for her siblings to bring them in safely. By blows with axes and maces the nannies were killed immediately and Elizabeth had to watch as her sisters were raped and hung up in the tree where she was hiding.
Later, the captured peasants tortured in front of her eyes and she should have urinated with joy at the sight of the sufferings of the farmers.
With 15 years Elizabeth married Franz Nadasdy, the cruel warrior who should have teached her a few torture techniques. They lived together at Castle Čachtice.
Because her husband often went to war and the couple could spend only little time together, Elisabth bored terribly. She should have taken some women and menvfor love affairs and organized orgies with her lesbian aunt. She took more and more young girls in her near, they were never older than 14 years. The Countess greeted the girls personally, and they were often beaten already.
Over time, she had a close lover. She caught him one day as he have slept with a kitchen assistant, she got angry and then tortured the girl with a scissors. When her screams of her victim were too much, she rammed her scissors in the neck and cut her vocal cords. According to this Elizabeth Bathory started to kill more and more girls.
After her husband Francis died, the Countess should have lost all inhibitions, threw out her hated mother-in-law from the castle and let out her sadistic impulses. Amongst other things she put needles into the body and the fingernails of the servants, she put a burning iron in their hands or soused the girls with water when they were outside in the winter, so they froze to death.
(...) Darvulia, her intimate maid brought a bucket of water out of the house. The women carry Ilona's body, while Elisabeth souse the water over the pale figure. The water froze quickly, and the girl froze immediately.
For a moment the women saw with astonishment the living statue. A sheet-like icicles, sharp as a Venetian glass fragments, curved between the legs out of the girl. The genital hair above the pin was set with sparkling crystals. Her belly had filled with crystals, a bunch of little sparkling jewels. 'Beauty' Elizabeth said coldly, 'how effortlessly you fasten yourself to the docile!' (...)
One day, Elizabeth's hair made to an elaborate hairstyle by a maid. She acted awkwardly, and then she should have been beaten so hardly in the face by the Countess's that the blood of the girl splashed on the hand of Báthory. She believed that she noted that her skin, where the blood had come to, looked more fresh and smooth. Then she immediately called the servants to cut the veins of the girl and collect the blood in a vessel and to bathe in it.
However, today it is untrue, because the blood clot more quickly than you could bathe in it. I think, that if this story is true that blood could be diluted in a bath full of water.
She should demonstrably have drunk the blood of the girls (including menstrual blood), after which the victims were tortured and ultimately bloodless, and the villagers thought Elizabeth was a vampire. They addressed oneself to other nobles, but they could not do anything because of Báthory lineage. When they no longer tortured and killed "normal" people, but other nobles, it changed at last.
The king asked her cousin, Count Georg Thurzo to attack Čachtice Castle on 30 December 1610 at night. An incredible image showed the intruders: In the hall of the castle, they found bloddless, tortured and bitten girls, who partially survived. More dead bodies the soldiers found in the near of the castle.
The countess was placed because of their noble ancestry in the palace under house arrest, her servants, her magicians and her torturers was taken to jail.
Elisabeth had allegedly refused to speak in court or defend herself. The witnesses to their deeds were interrogated and then executed after torture or burned alive.
To protect the Countess she was walled up in her bedroom, because a potential escape or a condemnation both would have been her final death.
In her opinion she have been treated unfairly and that this story would be a conspiracy of the Church, because all 612 killed people died only because of a disciplinary measure.
For four years she has lived in her prison, until 18th August 1614.
The victim of an intrigue
In addition to the serial killer, there is a further interpretation. It is problematic to rely now on the former trial records, because Elizabeth Bathory could not comment and was not represented by counsel. The total charge is based only on statements without investigation.
László Nagy thought first time in 1984 at an innocence of the countess, he believes in a cabal of the House of Habsburg. The Habsburgs and Báthorys were enemies since 1571. In addition to numerous other events, the struggle between Sigismund Báthory and Rudolf of Habsburg from 1597 to 1602 was very important for the control of Transylvania. Rudolf of Habsburg won this debate, but by other events, the country became independent again in 1605 by the Habsburgs.
So 1608 Gabriel Báthory could be supreme head of the administration (Wojewode) of Transylvania. Elizabeth Báthory could help in a possible campaign against Wallachia (an alliance of King Mathias) by sending aid (armed) from their strongholds across the country. But this was disallowed because the countess was arrested in 1610. It would have been easier to start an organization with many purchased witnesses against them as to carry on the war of the Habsburgs and the Báthory.
The abuse could be explained by the fact that it was a common practice at the time that low class servants got corporal punishment by high nobles.
Today, you can not say which story is really true and whether the legend of the blood countess happened.
Jesuit László Turóczi explored in 1721 the condemnation of Báthory from the sides of the court and added some inventions. He added the story of the Blood Countess, that Elizabeth got a blood spatter by a girl and that her skin seemed to become younger at this point, after which they killed many girls and bathed in their blood. Turóczis is the oldest record of it after the original filing. In subsequent repetitions the story has been expanded and added, for example, the iron maiden as a torture element. Even the publication of the court records did not stop the legend.
The nickname "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Bathory got by a result of the story that she have bathed in the blood of the girls, to keep herself young. Whether Bram Stoker get inspired by this story is not to say with any precision. To apply for a movie, a connection between it and blood-drinking vampires 1970 was first produced.
But who knows if the legend is true or not but at least contains some truth?
What do you think about the stories, legends and interpretations?
- Pictures of Countess Elizabeth Báthory: commons.wikimedia.org
- Pictures of castle Čachtice: bathory.org/erzsfot5.html and commons.wikimedia.org
- Pictures of the tower, in which Elizabeth Báthory was walled in: bathory.org/erzsfoto.html
Adaptations of legends
- (1970) Comtesse des Grauens (Countess Dracula)
- (1971) Blut an den Lippen (Les lèvres rouges)
- (1974) Unmoralische Geschichten (Contes immoraux) (Third Story: "Erzébet Báthory")
- (2006) Stay Alive
- (2007) Metamorphosis
- (2009) Die Gräfin with variations, but still very good movie!
Und ihr Auge blick so starr!
Ob es wohl jemals voller Güte war?
Soll man den Legenden denn glauben,
nach denen sie so schrecklich war?
Untoten - Unheimlich
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