Elizabeth (Erzébet) Báthory was born into one of the wealthiest and oldest families in Hungary. She was born in 1560 at Ecsed Castle on what used to be the border of Romania and Hungary, the Transylvanian Báthory family castle. Her father was George Báthory(Ecsed branch) and her mother was Anna Báthory(Somlyo branch). She was another child of an intermarriage relationship within the illustrious Báthory family. Several of her relatives had been princes of Transylvania, one was a cardinal and her cousin Count Gyorgy Thurzo was Prime Minister of Hungary. King Stephen Báthory of Poland was another famous relative and ruled from 1575-86. She had a great uncle, another Stephen Báthory, who had helped Vladislav III Tepes regain the Wallachian throne in 1476. He in turn became governor and then prince of Transylvania under the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus. But despite the successful family it was, there were other relatives that had rather odd interests. She had an uncle who was a diobolist, her aunt Klara was a well known lesbian and tortured servant girls for enjoyment and her brother, another Stephen, was a drunkard and a lecher. Elizabeth herself had an odd interest as well, which was torturing young servant girls for pleasure.
During her time, females were not properly educated; in fact most weren't allowed to even read or write let alone learn another language other than their own tongue. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was well educated and her intelligence was even greater than most men of her time. She learned to read, write and speak Hungarian, German and Latin. Most Hungarian nobles and even the King of Poland, Stephen Báthory, were barely literate.
The Báthory seal.
When Elizabeth was young, she, as were a lot of children, were exposed by their parents and others of the harshness and cruel treatments done onto the servants. Servants were not the only ones who endured punishments from the rich; peasants and even the lower nobility were prone to them as well. Outsiders such as gypsies(Roman) and wayfarers and others that disturbed the the high nobility also were subject to torture and death. During Elizabeth's time, we must understand that such cruelties weren't considered sadistic as we would think of them today. All activities were considered 'normal' and were legal. The church had even considered it so. To understand the way of thinking of people back then would explain Elizabeth's way of thinking and her actions. But even then people had thought she had gone too far. In the end, the 'Blood Countess' killed around 650 girls.
In 1555, Count Ferencz Nadasdy was born. In 1571, he was engaged to Elizabeth at the age of sixteen, she was eleven, by the help of his mother Ursula. The Nadasdy family was as prestigious as the Báthory's but not as old or as wealthy. Ferencz was not a very good student and barely learned to write some of his own native language and a little German and Latin. He was more interested in being athletic of which was his only talent.
On May 8, 1575, Ferencz and Elizabeth were married at Varanno Castle. It was a large and lavish wedding where even the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II was invited to attend but refused because of the dangers of travel at that time. Instead he sent an expensive wedding present and a delegation to represent him. Being that her family was older and wealthier than his, Elizabeth decided to keep her surname and the Count added hers to his.
Elizabeth Báthory's castle, Castle Csejthe.
Since Ferencz was rarely home with his wife, out batteling in wars, Elizabeth was left to run the household. The Countess assured her husband to carry out the task in his family's castle, Sarvar, which included disciplining the servants. Some of her punishments included beating the girl servants with a large, heavy club and piercing needles into the upper and lower lips of the girls and under the fingernails. Other punishments were to drag a naked servant girl outside during the heat of the noon-day sun in the summer, tied up to not escape and then placed in the sun, drenched in honey so the insects would come and slowly sting the girl to death. Another version was that in the winter, a girl was stripped naked, tied and then dragged out into the snow where cold water was poured over her, freezing her to death. During the first ten years of their marriage she bore no children due to the fact they barely saw each other. In 1585, Elizabeth bore her first child, a girl and she named her Anna. Over the next nine years she had two more girls, Ursula and Katherina. In 1598, her only son was born named Paul. She was a very good and protective mother, despite her atrocities. Nobility often treated their immediate family much more differently than the lower servants and peasants.
While the Count was away, Elizabeth liked to go and visit her Aunt Klara, an open bisexual. She was powerful and wealthy and enjoyed being with her aunt for she always had plenty of girls around her estate. Also, it is said that she had at one time left with a stranger dressed in black for a period of time. Once she came home and Ferencz had found out about her leaving him for the stranger, she begged him for forgiveness and he forgave her for her unfaithfulness. Ferencz, by 1598, was a well known war hero. He was dubbed by the Turks as the 'Black Knight of Hungary'. During this time, the Hungarian crown was falling behind in paying its war heroes and ended up having to owe the Nadasdy family large sums of money. Near the end of 1603, the bearded Count Ferencz Nadasdy became very ill and died on the morning of Jauary 4, 1604 at his family castle of Sarvar as the snow fell heavily upon its bricks. It isn't known whether or not Ferencz knew about his wife's hobbies, but while he was home he too tortured servants, showing Elizabeth various torture techniques he learned in the war. He, though, didn't torture them to death, like his wife did.
A month after her husband's death, Elizabeth decided that she had mourned long enough and began to appear in court. She started to engage more into her hobby after he had died, and most of her atrocities took place at her family's castle in the Nyitra country of Hungary, Castle Csejthe. It was there she could finally get away from her hated mother-in-law, Ursula. Some of Countess Elizabeth's helpers in her bloody hobby were as follows: her manservant Ficzko, Helena Jo the wet nurse, Dorothea Szentes(also called Dorka) and Katarina Beneczky, a washerwoman who helped late in the Countess's career. Between the years of 1604 and 1610, a woman named Anna Darvulia, presumed lover of the Countess, taught her new torturing techniques and was one of the most active of Elizabeth's sadistic helpers. After a stroke that left Darvulia blind, she left her work to Elizabeth, Helena Jo and Dorka.
Darvulia had made sure that all the girls were peasants; so when she had died, Elizabeth began to go after girls of lower nobility since the local peasants were becoming wise to the happenings up in Castle Csejthe. Soon after Darvulia's death, Elizabeth turned to a woman named Erzsi Majorova, a widow of a tenant farmer. She helped to encourage Elizabeth to take more girls of noble birth as well as peasants. After killing the girls, Elizabeth made sure that they were given proper Christian burials by the local pastor. But, as more and more dead bodies came to him from Elizabeth, the pastor began to refuse to perform his duties. She then threatened him to not spread the word of the deaths as she began to have the bodies buried secretly in any place she could find. They were disposed in nearby fields, wheat silos, the stream running behind the castle, the kitchen vegetable garden, etc.
After her husband's death, Elizabeth tried hard to make the Hungarian king Matthias II(not Mathias Corvinus) to pay her the debts he owed her deceased Ferencz. When he didn't pay her and she began to lose money to her hobby, she began selling her family castles in Transylvania. In the end she sold two. Her doing so caught the attention of her cousin, Count Thurzo, the Prime Minister of Hungary. He gathered up the rest of the Báthory clanin order to stop her from selling off more Báthory property.
In the winter of 1610, Elizabeth had her servants toss out four murdered girls from the ramparts of Castle Csejthe in full view of the Csejthe villagers whom then reported it to the king's officials. Elizabeth felt that because of her high status that she was untouchable before the law. The king, however, and church officials ordered Count Thurzo to act. He planned his raid to happen over the Christmas holiday while the Hungarian Parliament was not in session. On December 29, 1610, Count Thurzo's raid on Castle Csejthe began. When they entered the castle they found a beaten body of a servant girl before the door. Inside the house they found two other dead female victims, of which Elizabeth and her cohorts had not yet disposed of.
Count Thurzo decided to have Elizabeth imprisoned in her castle and not be brought before trial since she had so much evidence brought up against her anyhow. However, there were trials on January 2nd and 7th of 1611, largely for show and to make the occasion official. Testimonies of her four accomplices, Ficzko, Dorka, Helena Jo and Beneczky were taken and their sentances pronounced. The four testified that the body count only numbered between thirty and sixty, but a fifth witness heard at the January 7th trial placed the number at 650. The witness known as Zusanna described the tortures by Helena Jo, Dorka and Ficzko and made a plea for mercy in Katarina Beneczky's case. She revealed a register that had come from the Countess's chest of drawers that was written in the Countess's own handwriting that put the number of girls killed at 650.
The servants were judged guilty. Helena Jo and Dorthea Szentes had all their fingers pulled out by the public executioner with a pair of red-hot pincers and afterwards were burned alive. Ficzko was only decapitated because of his youth and the complicity in fewer crimes. After so, his body was drained of blood and then burned with his other two accomplices. Katarina Beneczky escaped the death penalty. On January 24, 1611 Erzsi Majorova was also found guilty and executed.
Elizabeth was never put on trial but she was sentenced to life of imprisonment in her castle. Stonemasons were brought in by Count Thurzo where they walled over the windows in her room and once she was inside her room, they walled up the door, leaving only a small hole for food to be passed through. To show the peasants that justice had been served, four gibbets were built on the four corners of the castle. On July 31, 1614, Elizabeth dictated her will and testament to two priests from the Esztergom bishopric. She wanted that what remained of her family holdings to be split amongst her children, but her son Paul and his descendants were to be the basic inheritors.
Late in August of 1614, one of her jailors wanted to get a good look at her since she was still reputedly one of the most beautiful women in Hungary. What her saw when he looked through the small hole to her room was the Countess, lying on the floor face down, dead at age 54. Elizabeth was buried in the Hungarian town of Ecsed, the original Báthory family seat.
King Matthias Corvinus
Vladislav III Tepes