Elizabeth Báthory, The Blood Countess

By | February 15, 2019

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Elizabeth Báthory. Source: (wikipedia.org)

One of the most infamous female serial killers of all time, Elizabeth Báthory, nicknamed the Blood Countess, was believed by many to be a vampire. Determining where legend ends and actual history begins can be difficult, though, and many have come to speculate whether or not Báthory was actually guilty of the crimes of which she was accused.

Báthory was born in 1560, the daughter of Baron George Báthory and Baroness Anna Báthory who were Protestant nobility. Her family ruled Transylvania, a principality of Hungary, and her uncle, Stephen Báthory, was the king of Poland. She grew up at her family’s castle in Ecséd, Hungary. She was blessed with her looks as well as her social status which allowed her both wealth and education.

Around the age of eleven or twelve, she became engaged to Count Ferenc Nádasdy, also of Hungarian nobility. A year or two later, she gave birth to a daughter from another man. Her fiancé was alleged to have had her lover castrated and ripped apart by dogs, and the child was hidden away. In 1575, at the age of fourteen, Báthory married Nádasdy. Because she outranked him, Nádasdy added the surname Báthory to his name and she did not change hers.

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Csejte Castle. Source: (wikimediacommons.org)

After their marriage, the couple moved into Csejte Castle, a wedding gift from the Nádasdy family, which was located in present-day Slovakia. In 1578, Nádasdy became chief commander of the Hungarian army, fighting against the Ottoman empire. As a result, Báthory was left to rule their estates. The couple had four children together between 1585 and 1595, though it was rumored that Báthory had multiple lovers. In 1604, Nádasdy died, leaving Báthory permanently in charge at the age of forty-three.

The rumors had begun two years before Nádasdy’s death, but they grew even more prevalent afterward. It began with the disappearances of peasant girls who had gone to work at Csejte Castle. At first, the rumors claimed that Báthory tortured her servants. After the death of her husband, the rumors of torture escalated to rumors of murder. The rumors were largely ignored until her roster of victims began to include not only servants but also young girls of noble blood sent to the castle to be educated as well as some who may have been kidnapped and brought to the castle.