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Elizabeth Bathory: Hungarian Serial Killer With Royal Connections

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Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian countess who murdered over 600 girls.

Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian countess who murdered over 600 girls.

Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed

Elizabeth Bathory has been accused of being a vampire as notable as Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Count Dracula. She retains the record as the most prolific female murderer of all time in the Guinness Book of Records (see Sources section).

Elizabeth was born into a privileged and prominent family on 7th August 1560 at Bathory Castle, Nyirbator, in the east of Hungary. Her uncle Stephen Bathory was the King of Poland. Prince of Transylvania and Grand Duke of Lithuania. Elizabeth's father, Baron George VI Bathory's brother Andrew controlled Transylvania as its voivode or governor. Her mother, Anne, was the daughter of a former voivode of Transylvania.

She was raised at Ecsed Castle, approximately 75km from Budapest. According to History Hit, she suffered from seizures as a child, perhaps epilepsy.

Intelligent and acclaimed as a beauty Elizabeth was betrothed at eleven or twelve years old, and in 1575 at age fourteen, she was dynastically married to fellow Hungarian Count Ferencz Nadasdy. He was twenty years older than his bride and served in the Hungarian military.

Count Ferencz Nadasdy married Elizabeth Bathory in 1575.

Count Ferencz Nadasdy married Elizabeth Bathory in 1575.

Cachtice Castle in the Carpathian Mountains

There was a persistent rumour that Elizabeth had borne a daughter allegedly fathered by a peasant lover before her marriage. Nadasdy was said to have castrated the lover and fed his body to a pack of wild dogs. The daughter was secreted away.

Elizabeth was of a higher status than her husband, so Nadasdy added her surname to his own. The Bathory and Nadasdy families gave the newlyweds Cachtice Castle in the Carpathian Mountains (today, the castle ruin lies in Slovakia) and seventeen surrounding villages.

Ferencz Nadasdy was wealthy, aristocratic and an ambitious soldier. He was rarely at home. He was eventually rewarded with an elevation to Earl of Pozsony Pressburg, Bratislava. He was notable throughout his career for his cruelty towards enemy Ottoman prisoners, even in those bloodthirsty times.

Between 1585 and 1595, Elizabeth bore Ferencz five children, Anna, Orsolya, Katalin, Andras (who died in infancy) and Pal. Governesses raised them as Elizabeth entertained a series of lovers at Cachtice Castle and sometimes at Sarvar Castle, which later fell under the ownership of the kings of Bavaria.

Elizabeth Bathory's Chilling Secret to Eternal Youth

After the death of the count on the battlefield in January 1604, horrifying suspicions of torture, murder and vampirism were voiced against Elizabeth. She was forty-three at the time of Ferencz's death and known to be terrified of growing old and losing her beauty.

She studied the occult, and she was familiar with her husband's torture devices in the castle. He used them on invading Turks, and she utilised them on debtors. Then Elizabeth realised they could be used to aid her quest for perpetual youth.

Between 1590 and 1610, Elizabeth tortured and murdered in excess of six hundred virgin peasant girls and noble women, some of whom were just ten years old. She reputedly drank and possibly bathed in her victims' blood, and she tore or bit at their flesh as they hung upside down from chains, their throats slit.

The ruin of Cachtice Castle in the Carpathian Mountains, today in Slovakia.

The ruin of Cachtice Castle in the Carpathian Mountains, today in Slovakia.

"The Blood Countess"

Known to history as "the Blood Countess", Elizabeth believed that the stream of young girls' unspoiled blood must be replenished frequently to afford her eternal youth. With the total approval of her sorcerer and alchemist, she offered girls jobs at the castle from which they never returned home, and she ordered abductions. Her staff did not refuse her.

In 1609 Elizabeth had what she thought was an excellent idea. She established an all-female academy at the castle under the pretence of preparing twenty-five genteel girls at a time for a life in the nobility. This offered her a new source of young blood to ward off old age.

All too quickly, her pupils began to die or disappear in her care, and when four blood-drained bodies were thrown from an upstairs window and seen by suspicious villagers, they reported her to the authorities.

Elizabeth Bathory's cousin Gyorgy Thurzo delivered her downfall in 1609.

Elizabeth Bathory's cousin Gyorgy Thurzo delivered her downfall in 1609.

Bathory's Lack of Remorse for Her Crimes

King Matthias of Hungary instructed Elizabeth's cousin Gyorgy Thurzo, the Count Palatine of Hungary, to deal with the accusations. He led an investigation, took statements from approximately three hundred people in the local area, and he implemented legal measures. Thurzo held no doubts about the depravity of the vile countess.

Elizabeth's servants were arrested as 1609 drew to a close. Her entire staff stood trial, and three servants were executed in 1611. Elizabeth Bathory was protected from arrest by her aristocratic position until the law was changed at Thurzo's request. In 1610 she was arrested and sat through a hearing that detailed her serial killing tendencies and estimated how many girls she had slain.

Her punishment for her unconscionable deeds was confinement in a small walled-up room in her castle. In Hungary, aristocrats could not be lawfully executed. During the four remaining years of her life, she offered not one word of remorse.

She died on 21st August 1614. Her descendants were banished from Hungary and emigrated to Poland. Some of them returned to Hungary in the mid-1600s, but the position of the Bathory-Nadasdy's was less significant but ever notorious.

Footnote

The Bathory von Simolin line of Elizabeth's dynasty continues. The Ecsed branch expired several centuries ago. In 2013 Ferencz Nadasdy, the last male descendent of the Nadasdy dynasty, died without issue. The dynasty became extinct after over six hundred years.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle