Little Bits of History

Countess Bathory

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 30, 2013
Elizabeth Báthory

Elizabeth Báthory

December 30, 1610: Elizabeth Báthory is apprehended. The Hungarian countess was a member of a prominent aristocratic family most noted for defending Hungary and Poland against the Ottoman invasion. There were many noted members of the family including several princes. Elizabeth was the niece of the King of Poland and an uncle on the other side of the family was the Voivod or Prince of Transylvania. She grew up in Ecsed Castle on the family estate in Nyírbátor, Hungary.

She married Ferenc Nádasdy in 1575 at the age of 15. For a wedding present, her husband gave her Csejte Castle, the country house, and 17 adjacent villages. Her new home was located in the Little Carpathians in what is today Slovenia. The area surrounding the castle was fertile agricultural lands. While her husband was away in war, Elizabeth ran the estate and defended it from attack. She was highly educated and could read and write in four languages. She was known to intervene on behalf of poor women mistreated by circumstances or men.

Between 1602 and 1604, Lutheran minister István Magyan began complaining about atrocities perpetrated. He took his complaints as far as Vienna. Finally, Hungarian authorities under King Matthias (Elizabeth’s cousin) sent Juraj Thurzo to investigate. It was now March 1610 and two men began collecting evidence. Elizabeth and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women. There is some conjecture that Elizabeth’s husband introduced her to the thrill of inflicting chaos on others. He died in 1604 and she carried on without him.

While she murdered peasant girls with apparent impunity, something had to be done when she started killing girls of lesser nobility. Elizabeth was arrested, but if convicted, her lands would have been forfeit. Her children and sons-in-law managed to simply lock her away. It is said she killed over 600 girls. While she never stood trial, her accomplices were found guilty of 80 murders. Elizabeth was placed on house arrest and walled into a set of rooms in her castle. She remained there for four years, until she died at the age of 54.

“One accomplice testified that on some days Elizabeth had stark-naked girls laid flat on the floor of her bedroom and tortured them so much that one could scoop up the blood by the pailful afterwards, and so Elizabeth had her servants bring up cinders in order to cover the pools of blood.” – Raymond T. McNally

“There is a great streak of violence in every human being.  If it is not channeled and understood, it will break out in war or in madness.” – Sam Peckinpah

“Wild animals never kill for sport.  Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow-creatures is amusing in itself.” – James Anthony Froude

“To torture a man you have to know his pleasures.” – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Ferenc Nádasdy was born in 1555 to one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Hungary. He was 16 when he was engaged to Elizabeth Bathory. The families were evenly matched financially. The Bathory family had a longer history and was much greater in scope concening matters of influence. Ferenc was barely literate and was said to have just a meager understanding of both Latin and German. During their long engagement, Elizabeth became pregnant by one of the servants. The man was castrated and then fed to the dogs while Elizabeth was sent off to have the child. The daughter born to her was kept secret and disassociated from the family. After their marriage, the couple had five more children; only three survived infancy.

Also on this day: Once in a Blue Moon – In 1982, the only total eclipse of a blue moon in the entire century took place.
Ted on the Loose – In 1977, Ted Bundy once again escaped from prison.
Not So Special – In 1924, Edwin Hubble announced that we were not alone.