Forget Twilight. Forget True Blood and the Vampire Diaries. You can even disregard Nosferatu and the Hammer classics. Hungarian noblewoman, Elizabeth Báthory was one crazy, blood-loving gal.
Allow me to set the scene…As with many a zany character in history, Lizzie was royal; her Uncle Stephen was the King of Hungary, and she herself a Countess married to a great warrior, Ferenc Nádasdy. She was said to have been beautiful, with long, dark, lustrous hair and creamy, pale skin. She bore a number of children, one of them at the age of 14 (out of wedlock…ooh the scandal!). Following the death of her husband in 1604, she and four collaborators were accused of the torture, and murder, of over 600 young women. Grim, eh!
When the tailor asked Elizabeth which colour she would like for her new gown, she replied ‘blood red’.
So, what actually happened? By all accounts, Elizabeth was a right terror; some even claiming she was psychotic. Our Liz, like most women, just wanted to remain young and beautiful. What better way than to bathe in and drink the blood of virgins?! Hmmm, personally, I am not convinced. I still believe a good cleanser/moisturiser combination is the way forward. Rumours in the nearby villages mounted between 1602-04, surrounding the vanishings of pretty young women; both peasant girls, and daughters of the lesser gentry. A Lutheran minister, István Magyari, complained about the disappearances and expressed the villager’s fears about the great Countess Báthory to the Hungarian authorities. However, the authorities took some time to respond. Eventually around 1610, Gyórgy Thurzó, an official of the Hungarian Royal Court, sent two investigators to Castle Csejte to investigate Lizzie’s illicit activities, where they collected over 300 testimonials from witnesses.
The scene of the crime: Castle Csejte
Whilst two witnesses, Benedikt Deseo and Jakob Szilvassy, actually saw the Countess herself torture and kill young servant girls, the definitive number of murders Báthory committed isn’t certain. One witness at the trial mentioned a book of names, in which the Countess recorded all of her murders. The location of said book is unknown; however, 32 letters written by Báthory are, to this day, stored in the Hungarian archives in Budapest.
“Do I look like someone who cares about what God thinks?”
Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed (1560-1614)
They couldn’t behead, hang or burn Lizzie, and they weren’t even allowed to take her to court. She was of noble birth, and so a trial would cause endless scandal and forever sully the Báthory family name. So, she spent the last four years of her life imprisoned within her castle with only slits in the walls for air, and a small window for the delivery of food. Tough luck Liz, but it could have been worse…your accomplices had their fingers ripped off with red-hot pokers!
With any great story, comes a (moderately reviewed) movie [‘Bathory: Countess of Blood’ 2008, starring Anna Friel as Elizabeth]