Erzsébet/Elizabeth Báthory
Background information
Birth name Erzsébet Báthory
Also known as The Blood Countess
The Bloody Lady of Čachtice
Born Template:Birthdate
Nyírbátor, Kingdom of Hungary
Died Template:Dda
Csejte, Kingdom of Hungary (today Čachtice, Slovakia)
Penalty life-long confinement
Number of victims convicted for: 80,
estimated: over 650[1]
Country Kingdom of Hungary
Date apprehended 30 December 1610

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (Báthory Erzsébet in Hungarian, Alžbeta Bátoriová in Slovak; 7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614) was a countess from the renowned Báthory family of Hungarian nobility. Although the number of murders is debated, she has been labeled the most prolific female serial killer in history and is remembered as the "Blood Countess."

After her husband Ferenc Nádasdy's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls, with one witness attributing to them over 650 victims, though the number for which they were convicted was 80.[2] Elizabeth herself was neither tried nor convicted. In 1610, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, now in Slovakia and known as Čachtice, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.

Later writings about the case have led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins in order to retain her youth and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom the fictional Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula.

Life Edit

Early years Edit

Erzsébeth Báthory was born on a family estate in Nyírbátor, Hungary on 7 August 1560, and spent her childhood at Ecsed Castle. Her father was George Báthory of the Ecsed branch of the family, brother of Andrew Bonaventura Báthory, who had been Voivod of Transylvania, while her mother was Anna Báthory (1539–1570), daughter of Stephen Báthory of Somlyó, another Voivod of Transylvania, was of the Somlyó branch. Through her mother, Elizabeth was the niece of the Hungarian noble Stefan Báthory, King of Poland and Duke of Transylvania.

As a young woman she learned Latin, German and Greek.[3]

Married lifeEdit

Elizabeth was engaged to Ferenc Nádasdy, in what was probably a political arrangement within the circles of the aristocracy. The couple married on 8 May 1575 when she was 14 and a half years old, in the little palace of Varannó. There were approximately 4,500 guests at the wedding. Elizabeth moved to Nádasdy Castle in Sárvár and spent much time on her own, while her husband studied in Vienna. Ferenc was the son of Baron Tamás Nádasdy de Nádasd et Fogarasföld and his wife, Orsolya Kanizsai.

Nádasdy's wedding gift to Báthory was his home, Csejte Castle which was bought by his mother in 1569 and given to Ferenc who transferred it to Elizabeth during their nuptials[4] situated in the Little Carpathians near Trencsén (now Trenčín), together with the Csejte country house and 17 adjacent villages. The castle itself was surrounded by a village and agricultural lands, bordered by outcrops of the Little Carpathians.

In 1578, Nádasdy became the chief commander of Hungarian troops, leading them to war against the Ottomans. With her husband away at war, Elizabeth Báthory managed business affairs and the estates. That role usually included providing for the Hungarian and Slovak peasants, even medical care.

During the height of the Long War (1593–1606), she was charged with the defence of her husband's estates, which lay on the route to Vienna.[3] The threat was significant, for the village of Csejte had previously been plundered by the Ottomans while Sárvár, located near the border that divided Royal Hungary and Ottoman-occupied Hungary, was in even greater danger.

She was an educated woman who could read and write in four languages.[3] There were several instances where she intervened on behalf of destitute women, including a woman whose husband was captured by the Turks and a woman whose daughter was raped and impregnated.

Around 1585, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Anna (the wife of Miklós Zrinyi VI, who died after 1605), and, later, to daughter Katalin, son György, daughter Orsoly, two sons, Pál (1593/1597-1633/1650 – father of Ferenc Nádasdy II) and András (1598–1603), and son, Miklós (husband to Zsuzsanna Zrinyi).[5] All of her children were cared for by governesses, as Elizabeth had been.

Elizabeth's husband Ferencz died in 1604 at the age of 47, reportedly due to an unknown illness sustained during battle. The couple had been married for 29 years.


Investigation Edit

Between 1602 and 1604, Lutheran minister István Magyari complained about atrocities both publicly and with the court in Vienna, after rumors had spread.[6]

The Hungarian authorities took some time to respond to Magyari's complaints. Finally, in 1610, King Matthias assigned György Thurzo, the Palatine of Hungary, to investigate. Thurzó ordered two notaries to collect evidence in March 1610.[7] Even before obtaining the results,[8] In 1610 and 1611, the notaries collected testimony from more than 300 witnesses. The trial records include the testimony of the four defendants, as well as thirteen witnesses. Priests, noblemen and commoners were questioned. Witnesses included the castellan and other personnel of Sárvár castle.

According to all this testimony, her initial victims were the adolescent daughters of local peasants, many of whom were lured to Csejte by offers of well-paid work as maidservants in the castle. Later, she is said to have begun to kill daughters of the lesser gentry, who were sent to her gynaeceum by their parents to learn courtly etiquette. Abductions were said to have occurred as well.[9] The atrocities described most consistently included severe beatings, burning or mutilation of hands, biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other body parts, freezing or starving to death and sexual abuse[9] The use of needles was also mentioned by the collaborators in court.

Some witnesses named relatives who died while at the gynaeceum. Others reported having seen traces of torture on dead bodies, some of which were buried in graveyards, and others in unmarked locations. However, two witnesses (court officials Benedikt Deseo and Jakob Szilvassy) actually saw the Countess herself torture and kill young servant girls.[10] According to the testimony of the defendants, Elizabeth Báthory tortured and killed her victims not only at Csejte but also on her properties in Sárvár, Németkeresztúr, Bratislava (then Pozsony, Pressburg), and Vienna, and even between these locations. In addition to the defendants, several people were named for supplying Elizabeth Báthory with young women. The girls had been procured either by deception or by force. A little-known figure named Anna Darvulia was rumored to have influenced Báthory, but Darvulia was dead long before the trial.

The exact number of young women tortured and killed by Elizabeth Báthory is unknown, though it is often speculated to be as high as 650, between the years 1585 and 1610.[9] The estimates differ greatly. During the trial and before their execution, Szentes and Ficko reported 36 and 37 respectively, during their periods of service. The other defendants estimated a number of 50 or higher. Many Sárvár castle personnel estimated the number of bodies removed from the castle at between 100 to 200. One witness who spoke at the trial mentioned a book in which a total of over 650 victims was supposed to have been listed by Báthory. This number became part of the legend surrounding Báthory. Reportedly, the location of the diaries is unknown but 32 letters written by Báthory are stored in the Hungarian state archives in Budapest.[11]

László Nagy has argued that Elizabeth Báthory was a victim of a conspiracy,[12] a view opposed by others.[13] Nagy argued that the proceedings were largely politically motivated. The theory is consistent with Hungarian history at that time. There was great conflict between religions, including Protestant ones, and this was related to the extension of Habsburg power over Hungary.[14] As a Transylvanian Protestant aristocrat, Elizabeth belonged to a group generally opposed to the Habsburgs.


Thurzó debated further proceedings with Elizabeth's son Paul and two of her sons-in-law. A trial and execution would have caused a public scandal and disgraced a noble and influential family (which at the time ruled Transylvania), and Elizabeth's considerable property would have been seized by the crown. Thurzó, along with Paul and her two sons-in-law, originally planned for Elizabeth to be spirited away to a nunnery, but as accounts of her murder of the daughters of lesser nobility spread, it was agreed that Elizabeth Báthory should be kept under strict house arrest, but that further punishment should be avoided.[15] King Matthias requested that Elizabeth be sentenced to death. It was also determined that Matthias would not have to repay his large debt to her, for which he lacked sufficient funds.[16]

Thurzó went to Csejte Castle on 30 December 1610 and arrested Báthory and four of her servants, who were accused of being her accomplices: Dorotya Semtész, Ilona Jó, Kataínka Benická, and János Újváry ("Ibis" or Ficko). Thurzó's men reportedly found one girl dead and one dying and reported that another woman was found wounded while others were locked up.[17] The countess was put under house arrest.

King Matthias urged Thurzo to bring her to court and two notaries were sent to collect further evidence,[18] but Thurzó successfully convinced the king that such an act would negatively affect the nobility. Hence, a trial was postponed indefinitely. Thurzo's motivation for such an intervention is debated by scholars.


Báthory's accomplices were brought to court. The trial was held on 7 January 1611 at Bicse, presided over by Royal Supreme Court judge Theodosious Syrmiensis de Szulo and 20 associate judges. Bathory herself did not appear at the trial.[16]

The defendants were found guilty and three of them – Semtész, Jó and Ficko – condemned to death, the sentence being carried out immediately. Before being burned at the stake, Semtész and Jó had their fingers ripped off their hands with hot pokers, while Ficko, who was deemed less culpable, was beheaded before being consigned to the flames. A red gallows was erected near the castle to show the public that justice had been done. Benická was sentenced to life imprisonment, since recorded testimony indicated that she was dominated and bullied by the other women.

Last years and death Edit

Báthory remained under house arrest and was immured within the tower with only but one slit to give her provisions. She remained there for four years, until her death. On 21 August 1614, Elizabeth Báthory was found dead in her castle. Since there were several plates of food untouched, her actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers' uproar over having "The Tigress of Csejte" buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it is interred at the Báthory family crypt.[19]

Folklore and popular culture Edit

Main article: Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture

The case of Elizabeth Báthory inspired numerous stories during the eighteenth and 19th centuries. The most common motif of these works was that of the countess bathing in her victims' blood in order to retain beauty or youth.

This legend appeared in print for the first time in 1729, in the Jesuit scholar László Turóczi’s Tragica Historia,[20] the first written account of the Báthory case. At the beginning of the 19th century, this certainty was questioned, and sadistic pleasure was considered a far more plausible motive for Elizabeth Báthory's crimes.[21] In 1817, the witness accounts (which had surfaced in 1765) were published for the first time,[22] which included no references to bloodbaths.

The legend nonetheless persisted in the popular imagination. Some versions of the story were told with the purpose of denouncing female vanity, while other versions aimed to entertain or thrill their audience. The ethnic divisions in Eastern Europe and financial incentives for tourism contribute to the problems with historical accuracy in understanding Elizabeth Báthory. During the twentieth and 21st centuries, Elizabeth Báthory has continued to appear as a character in music, film, plays, books, games and toys and to serve as an inspiration for similar characters.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. "Countess Elizabeth Bathory – The Blood Countess." The Crime Library.
  2. "Countess Elizabeth Bathory – The Blood Countess." The Crime Library.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Báthory Erzsébet – Báthory Erzsébet: Short FAQ
  4. Craft, Kimberly L. "Infamous Lady the true story of countess Erzsebet Bathory" first edition Kimberly L. Craft Esq, 2009, p.35.
  5. Genealogy of the Nádasdy family
  6. Farin, Heroine des Grauens, p. 234–237.
  7. Letters from Thurzó to both men on 5 March 1610, printed in Farin, Heroine des Grauens, p. 265–266, 276–278.
  8. On 19 September 1610, Andreas of Keresztúr sent 34 witness accounts to Thurzó. On 27 October 1610, Mózes Cziráky sent 18 accounts.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Did Dracula really exist? from The Straight Dope
  10. Infamous Lady the true story of Countess Erzsebet Bathory,First Edition,Kimberly L. Craft, 2009, p.96-99
  11. FAQ from
  12. Nagy, László. A rossz hirü Báthoryak. Budapest: Kossuth Könyvkiadó 1984
  13. Pollák, György. Az irástudók felelötlensége. In: Kritika. Müvelödéspollitikai és kritikai lap. Budapest, January 1986, p. 21–22.
  14. Sugar, P.F., etal:A History of Hungary. Indiana University Press, 1990, p. 97
  15. Letter from 12 December 1610 by Elizabeth's son-in-law Zrínyi to Thurzo refers to agreement made earlier. See Farin, Heroine des Grauens, p. 291.
  16. 16.0 16.1 McNally, Raymond T. (1983). Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania. New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-07-045671-2.
  17. Letter from Thurzó to his wife, 30 December 1610, printed in Farin, Heroine des Grauens, p. 293.
  18. 224 Witness accounts were sent to Matthias on 28 July 1611 by A. of Keresztúr, 12 by M. Cziraky on 14 December 1611,
  19. Farin, Heroine des Grauens, p. 246.
  20. in Ungaria suis *** regibus compendia data, Typis Academicis Soc. Jesu per Fridericum Gall. Anno MCCCXXIX. Mense Sepembri Die 8. p 188–193, quoted by Farin
  21. Alois Freyherr von Mednyansky: Elisabeth Báthory, in Hesperus, Prague, October 1812, vol. 2, No. 59, p. 470–472, quoted by Farin, Heroine des Grauens, p. 61–65.
  22. Hesperus, Prague, June 1817, Vol. 1, No. 31, p. 241–248 and July 1817, Vol. 2, No. 34, p. 270–272

Further reading Edit

In English:

  • Craft, Kimberly (2009). Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory. ISBN 1-4495-1344-1. 
  • McNally, Raymond T. (1983). Dracula Was a Woman: In Search of the Blood Countess of Transylvania. New York: McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-07-045671-2. 
  • Penrose, Valentine (trans. Alexander Trocchi) (2006). The Bloody Countess: Atrocities of Erzsébet Báthory. Solar Books. ISBN 0-9714578-2-4. 
  • Thorne, Tony (1997). Countess Dracula. Bloomsbury. ISBN 0-7475-2900-0. 

In French:

In German:

  • Farin, Michael (2003). Heroine des Grauens. Elisabeth Báthory. Munich: P. Kirchheim. ISBN 3-87410-038-3. 

In Hungarian:

  • Bessenyei, József (2005). A Nádasdyak. General Press Kiadó. ISBN 963-9598-65-8. 
  • Lengyel, Tünde and Várkonyi, Gábor (2010). Báthory Erzsébet, Egy asszony élete. General Press Kiadó. ISBN 978-963-643-168-6. 
  • Nagy, László (1984). A rossz hírű Báthoryak. Kossuth Könyvkiadó. ISBN 963-09-2308-4. 
  • Nagy, László (1987). Az erős fekete bég: Nádasdy Ferenc. Zrínyi Katonai Könyv és Lapkiadó. ISBN 963-326-933-4. 
  • Nemere, István (2009). Báthory Erzsébet magánélete. Könyvmolyképző Kiadó. ISBN 978-963-245-193-0. 
  • Péter, Katalin (1985). A csejtei várúrnő: Báthory Erzsébet. Helikon. ISBN 963-207-652-4. 
  • Rexa, Dezső (1908). Báthory Erzsébet Nádasdy Ferencné. Benkő Gyula Udvari Könyvkereskedése. 
  • Supka, Géza (1940?). Az átkozott asszony: Nádasdy Ferencné, Báthory Erzsébet bűnügye. Erdélyi Egyetemes Könyvtár. 
  • Szádeczky-Kardoss, Irma (1993). Báthory Erzsébet igazsága. Nestor Kiadó. ISBN 963-7523-26-X. 

In Slovak:

  • Dvořák, Pavel (1999). Krvavá grófka: Alžbeta Bátoryová, fakty a výmysly. Slovart. ISBN 978-80-85501-07-0. 
  • Nižnánsky, Jožo (2001). Čachtická pani. Media klub. ISBN 80-88963-52-4. 

External links Edit

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