Biography of Erzsebet Bathori - Elizabeth Bathory

The Bathori Family Crest

Born in 1560, Countess Erzsebet Bathori was the offspring of two branches of the Bathori family, whose constant intermarriage may account for several cases of lunacy in the family. As a child she was intelligent and well educated, being fluent in Latin, Hungarian and German at a time when most nobles were barely literate. Brought up in the family castle at Nagyecsed (Hungary), she absorbed from her relatives the notion that peasants were little more than cattle (as a child she witnessed a gypsey being sewn into a horses stomach and left to die).

In May 1575 she married Ferenc Nadasdy (an earlier illegitimate pregnancy was hushed up). Over the next decade Ferenc was usually away fighting Turks (earning the title "Black Knight"). At Sarvar, Erszebet began to torture serving women, with the assistance of her maids Dorothea Szentes and Anna Darvulia (her lover). She beat and stuck pins C into servants to "discipline" them, and forced some to lie in the courtyard while she douesed them with water until they froze to death. On his return Ferenc, though not exactly a humanitarian, baulked at this, and it was not until after his death in 1604 that Elizabeth could act without restraint. Over the years shae murdered over six hundred women, often biting chunks of flesh from their neck and breasts (probably the origin of the lengend that she bathed in the blood of maidens to keep her skin white and youthful). Her victims were almost always from the poor, and so she was virtually immune to accusation.

However after the death of Darvulia, the countesss formed an attachment to a local widow, Erzsi Majorova, who encouraged her to seek aristocratic girls for her victims. Suspicion from their parents quickly arose, and the authorities had other motives for investigating Die Blutgraffin. Ferenc had loaned the Hapsburg crown 17,000 gulden, which would be forfeit if Erzsebet was found guilty of serious crimes. Also her son Paul, who had grown apart from her at Sarvar, and Count Thurzo were anxious to prevent confiscation of the family estates and began gathering evidence; eventually they raided the castle at Cachtice (now in Slovakia, then part of Upper Hungary) (tripping over the corpse of a woman the Countess had bludgeoned to death for stealing a pear), and imprisoned her there. When the Countess died in 1614, the locals protested at her being buried there and she was moved to the family vault in Nagyecsed. Due to her rank and sex (women then being considered incapable of such deeds) details of her trial were hidden and mention of her name subsequently prohibited by royal command.

Main source - Rough Guides