In the early 17th century, rumors began to circulate around the village of Trencin in present-day Slovakia. It was that peasant girls looking for work at Sejte Castle were disappearing, and no one knew why. But before long, many locals began to point the finger at Countess Elizabeth Bathory.
Elisabeth Báthory came from the Báthóry family, a noble Protestant family that had inherited a great deal of land in the Kingdom of Hungary. Her father was Baron George VI Báthory and her mother was Baroness Anna Báthory, daughter of another voivode of Transylvania. She was also the niece of Stephen Báthory, King of Poland, Duke of Lithuania, and Prince of Transylvania.
Elizabeth Bathory was born on a family estate in Nirbeter and spent her childhood at Exed Castle. Bathory suffered from epilepsy during that period.
A baron’s son when Bathory was about 12 years old; She was married to another member of the aristocracy, Count Ferenc Nádasdy. But after a year or two, Bathory became pregnant from an ordinary young man; Ferenc Nadasdi found out about this and after changing the baby, he killed the young man and gave him to the dogs. In 1575, Báthory married Ferenc Nadasdi. Bathory was 14 years old then. Around 4,500 guests were invited to their wedding.
By 1578, Nadasdi became the commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army and began a military campaign against the Ottoman Empire. He left his wife in charge of his vast estates and the administration of the local people when he went off to war. In 1604, Nadasdy developed pain in his legs and died from permanent disability. The couple had 4 children.
How much truth there is in all these tales is debatable. Historians of the modern world dismiss much of this. Bathory is said to have brought many young men to her estates while her husband was away at war. All of these accounts, which appear to be clearly suicidal, have no written record. These stories are circulating after a century.
After her husband’s death, stories began to circulate about her sadistic activities. It was rumored that she enjoyed torturing and killing girls. According to folklore, the first ones they molested were the maids in her forts. Daughters of local farmers worked as maids in the fort.
It is said that Bathory not only tortured but also drank blood and bathed in the blood of young men. Apart from palace maids, young girls from noble families who were sent to the palace to learn good manners also became victims of Bathory. She believed that drinking the blood of girls would preserve her youth and appearance. The story goes that she developed this passion after beating a maid and her skin looked younger where the maid’s blood was spattered. He used to bury the dead bodies of the tortured and killed victims in the church cemeteries at night with the help of his 4 accomplices. Bathory was suspected of inflicting various forms of torture on his victims. According to survivors and eyewitnesses from Bathory, the victims were severely beaten. Some are said to have had their hands burned and mutilated. Some starved to death. According to the Budapest City Archives, the victims were smeared with honey and then fed to live ants. Other times they were burned with hardened iron weapons, coins and keys and then drowned in freezing water. Báthory is believed to have stuck needles in victims’ lips or other parts of their bodies, stabbed them with scissors or cut their breasts, faces and limbs. Some were beaten to death. The story of Elizabeth bathing in their blood seems to have been added later. Other times they were burned with hardened iron weapons, coins and keys and then drowned in freezing water. Báthory is believed to have stuck needles in victims’ lips or other parts of their bodies, stabbed them with scissors or cut their breasts, faces and limbs. Some were beaten to death. The story of Elizabeth bathing in their blood seems to have been added later. Other times they were burned with hardened iron weapons, coins and keys and then drowned in freezing water. Báthory is believed to have inserted needles into victims’ lips or body parts, stabbed them with scissors, or cut their breasts, faces, and limbs. Some were beaten to death. The story of Elizabeth bathing in their blood seems to have been added later.
It is said that after killing the girls left to study in the fort, they threw them down and fell in front of those who came in search of the children.
The people were agitated and complained to the king. Therefore, the Hungarian King Matthias II sent his highest-ranking representative, György Thurso, to investigate the complaints against her.
The investigation began in 1610. Thurso gathered evidence from nearly 300 witnesses who made truly horrific accusations against the countess. During Thurso’s investigation, some accused her of being a vampire, while others claimed to have seen her having sex with the devil. The most infamous allegation – which inspired her nickname, the Blood Countess – is that Elizabeth Bathory bathed in the blood of young men and thus tried to stay young. But although this story is the most memorable, it is very unlikely to be true.
Elizabeth was finally arrested in December of that year. Thurso ultimately charged Bathory with the deaths of 80 girls. A witness claimed to have seen a book that Bathory had kept. It is said to have recorded the names of all of Bathory’s victims. There were 650 names in total. The only claim is that someone saw this diary from the hands of a court official. So this too seems to be just a myth.
Four of her favorite servants, accused of being her accomplices, were tried and found guilty. Three of them were executed and the fourth was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Because of her family’s position, Elizabeth herself was not tried, but she was imprisoned in Setje Castle. The room she was locked in had no windows. She was 54 years old when she died there in 1614 at the end of that solitary confinement.
In fact, some modern Hungarian scholars say that the power and greed of others may have caused these stories to circulate, rather than her own evil. King Matthias II was greatly indebted to Bathory’s late husband, and later to her. Mathias refused to pay the debt. Historians say that the Countess was framed for crimes to avoid payment.
Similarly, some historians say that the witnesses may have been influenced, and the judgment may have been passed before her family could intervene, thereby resulting in the confiscation of the property.
According to historians, Elizabeth Bathory’s true story goes like this: the income from the strategic land she owned made her the owner of a great fortune. The king was afraid of that growing center of power, ruling without a man by his side, intelligent and powerful. If allowed to grow further, they may become aggressive and cruel and threaten the king’s throne itself. It is believed that due to these reasons the court was influenced and fabricated a story in their favour, and brought witnesses accordingly. Barthori may have tortured or even killed his servants, but the truth is thought to be far from the popular story.
Many movies have been released based on their lives.
Daughter of darkness (1971), Countess Dracula (1970), Stay alive(2008), fright night 2(2013), are just some of them. A video game has also featured her as the central character…
Guinness introduced her as the cruelest woman the world has ever seen.