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The Legend of Elizabeth Bathory

This here is the “factual” story of Elizabeth Bathory, as gleaned from books and the web.
I am now studying an alternate theory that I think will be much nearer to the reality of, who I think, has been a much-maligned woman of power and elegance.

The History Of Elizabeth Bathory

Erzsebet Bathory, known more generally in the Western world by the anglicized name Elizabeth, was born August 7th, 1560, the daughter of Baron George Bathory and Baroness Anna Bathory. George and Anna were both Bathorys by birth; he a member of the Ecsed branch of the family and the Somlyo. Such inbreeding was not unusual in the society of 16th Century Eastern Europe, as the righteousness of the noble line was glimpsed as paramount.

The Power Of Elizabeth Bathory

The Bathory was one of the most strong Protestant families in Hungary, and numbered warlords, politicians, and clerics among its members. Elizabeth’s forefather Stephan Bathory had battled alongside Vlad Dracula in one of his several victorious tries to reclaim the Wallachian throne, and his namesake, Elizabeth’s cousin, became Prince of Transylvania in 1571 and was later elected King of Poland. Other members of the family were less respected, nonetheless, including Elizabeth’s brother (also called Stephan), a noted drunkard and lecher.


Elizabeth was highly-educated for her time, being expressive in Hungarian, Latin, and Greek in a time when maximum Hungarians of noble birth – even men, who normally would have been better schooled than their female kin – were all but illiterate. She is also told to have been a great elegance, although it is uncertain that anyone would have frankly said otherwise of the daughter of such a well-known family. At the age of eleven, Elizabeth was committed to Count Ferenc Nadasdy, a trained warrior and athlete, but as revealed by his own mother’s hand, ‘no scholar’. He was – by differing reports – five or 15 years Elizabeth’s senior. It was Ferenc’s mother, Ursula, who arranged this engagement, one which would give substantial importance to the Nadasdy family.


Death of Countess Elizabeth Bathory | History Today
Credit: HistoryToday

In pursuing to divine the genesis of Elizabeth’s vicious behavior it has been indicated that she might have been crazy from childhood. It is told that the young Elizabeth underwent seizures accompanied by loss of control and fits of anger, which may have been affected by epilepsy, probably arising from inbreeding. She was also eligible to witness the vicious justice handed down by her family’s officers on their palaces at Ecsel. One anecdote characterizes an affair in which a gypsy, accused of theft, was sewn up in the abdomen of a perishing horse with only his head uncovered, and left to die. Such stories afford a horrible reminder that her acts – while unreasonable even by the criteria of the time – were not so very far eliminated from actions that would have been deemed entirely normal.

The year 1574

In 1574 Elizabeth fell expectant by a peasant lover. She was quietly sequestered until the child, a daughter, was born and given to peasant foster parents to be put forward. In 1575 she was wedded to Ferenc in a gala festivity to which the Holy Roman Emperor himself, Maximillian II, was invited, bringing a delegation and an outstanding gift with an apology for his inevitable absence. His justification was the threat of traveling in turbulent times, and there is slight to imply that he was pursuing to avoid either family. Elizabeth maintained her maiden name, and Ferenc added it to his own, a less prominent one, becoming Ferenc Bathory-Nadasdy.


After her wedding, Elizabeth was ascertained as mistress of the Nadasdy estate around Castle Sarvar. Here the Nadasdys admired a reputation as severe masters, and while much of Elizabeth’s brutality is doubtless due to her essence, Ferenc is told to have shown her some of his favored manners of punishing his servants. There are also stories of the couple engaging in diabolic rites and patronizing several occultists and Satanists. It is extraordinary, although far from unheard of, for retellers of the tale to claim that Ferenc was unfamiliar with his wife’s perversions.
Elizabeth is reported to have been a decent wife in her husband’s existence, but Ferenc was a warrior by nature, and often absent. To occupy her time she is told to have taken various young men as lovers. She even ran away with one of these but came back after a very quick time to her husband. She also expended time touring her aunt, noted at the period for her open bisexuality, and recent reports appear to deem Elizabeth’s sexual contradiction to be a crucial part of her overall perversion.
After ten years of wedding Elizabeth eventually gave her husband children; three daughters and at last a son, delivered in rapid succession from 1585 onwards. By all reports, Elizabeth was an outstanding and doting mother.

A Horrible Hobby

It was in her husband’s absence, that Elizabeth is reputed to have started tormenting young servant girls for her fun, although this may have been a hobby to which Ferenc himself introduced her to. Her accomplices at this time were Helena Jo, her childrens’ wet nurse, Dorothea Szentes, also recognized as Dorka, a peasant woman of noted physical power claimed to be a witch, and Johannes Ujvary also pertained to as Ficzko, a manservant sometimes characterized as a dwarf-like cripple. Among the actions associated with Elizabeth in this time were whipping her maidservants with a barbed lash and an enormous cudgel, and having them pushed naked into the snow and drenched with cold water until they froze to death.

The Year 1604

In January 1604, Ferenc Nadasdy perished of an infected wound, reportedly caused by a harlot whom he declined to pay. Elizabeth transferred herself to the royal court at Vienna with nearly improper quickness and took to expending much time at her palace at Cachtice (pronounced Chakh-teetsay) in northwest Hungary (now Slovakia). Here she took up with Anna Darvula, characterized as the most enthusiastic sadist in her entourage, and, like Dorka, claimed to be a witch. Davila was also told to be Elizabeth’s lover. This was the time in which Elizabeth is told to have committed her tremendous dreadfulness, under the guidance of Davila.

Bathing In Blood

It is also at this time that legend informs us that she found, on hitting a servant girl who accidentally grabbed her hair while combing it, that blood seemed to lessen the indications of aging on her skin. The famous version of events tells how Elizabeth took to bathing in the blood of youthful girls, although of the several horrific eye-witness summaries of her crimes, none characterize these blood baths.

The Year 1609

Elizabeth’s biases went greatly undetected – or at least overlooked – until around 1609. The Lord Palatine of Hungary, Count Cuyorgy Thurzo, possibly knew of her actions much faster. He was her cousin, nonetheless, and to protect the family name took no authorized activity, although he may have attempted to have Elizabeth restricted to a nunnery. In 1609 nonetheless, Darvula perished, and Elizabeth appears to have taken up with a new accomplice/lover, the widow of one of her inhabitant farmers, named Erszi Majorova, and it was maybe at Erszi’s provocation or encouragement that Elizabeth turned her hand against many girls from families of noble blood but tiny wealth.

Killing Overlooked

The demises of peasant girls might be ignored, but the killing of nobles, even those of such restricted means as those Elizabeth chosen, could not go overlooked. The King of Hungary decreed her arrest, and Count Thurzo moved rapidly to save the family as much face as possible by influencing her capture on his terms. On 30 December he supervised soldiers in a night invasion on Castle Cachtice; as it was Christmas, the Hungarian Parliament would not have been in session, enabling the Lord Palatine to work unchecked. This raid seemingly discovered a lifeless girl in the hallway, and several other victims dead, perishing, or expecting torture in cells.


Dorothea, Helena, and Ficzko were caught, along with Katarina Beneczky, a washerwoman newly entered into the Countess’ service. Erszi Majorova avoided capture in the raid but was later also caught. Elizabeth herself was clasped but not taken away with her associates.
In January 1611 Elizabeth’s associates were subjected to two quick show trials, in which they gave information, almost clearly taken out under torture, and were sentenced to their horrible crimes in a matter of days. In the second prosecution, another servant named Zusanna indicated the presence of a register, in her mistress’ handwriting, which recorded over 650 casualties who had perished at the Countess’ hands over the years. This information was uncertain as the register was never really produced, but it was sufficient to sentence the servants.


Helena Jo and Dorothea Szentes were named as the foremost perpetrators and convicted, as witches, to have the fingers which had ‘dipped in the blood of Christians’ torn out with red-hot pincers, and then to be scorched alive. As a lesser culprit, Ficzko was beheaded before his corpse was burned alongside the two women. On 24 January, Erszi Majorova was also convicted and executed. Of those attempted, only Katarina Beneczky avoided the death sentence, vindicated by her fellow defendants and also by the statement of Zuzanna.

No Crime

Elizabeth Bathory was present at neither prosecution and was sentenced to no crime. Nonetheless, when she tried to escape, her cousin had her restricted to the castle at Cachtice, although her family stubbornly rejected the King’s demands that she be attempted for her crimes. While he was possibly stunned by the importance of the Countess’ deeds, the King’s intention for justice was almost certainly in part due to a huge deficit incurred against Ferenc in his lifetime. Elizabeth’s conviction would have enabled the King to not only write off that deficit, but also to seize the Nadasdy lands, and those held by Elizabeth as a Bathory. Accordingly, the Bathorys must have brought all of their substantial impacts to bear to keep that from happening.

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