Elizabeth Báthory: The Blood Countess 
The Controversial Case of Countess Bathory - Facts and Popular Culture

The Blood Countess The plain story Facts Biography Pictures
 

Countess Bathory's case - Alternate version

The story of Elizabeth Bathory is surrounded by a lot of folklore.

There is a lot of supposition going on about the truthfulness of the accusations.

The plain story is this.

On December 29, 1610, Bathory, a 50 year old widowed noblewoman of enormous wealth, was sitting at dinner in one of her castles (in Cachtice, now in Slovakia) when the Viceroy of Hungary arrived at the gates.

Servants were hustled away to be questioned, and Bathory herself was removed and put under house arrest. She was never seen in public again.

The Process

A trial was held, without the accused present, in which the court was told of female corpses unearthed at the castle.Girls had allegedly been beaten, abused with lighted candles, needles, tongs and hot irons, and had been caused to freeze to death in the snow.

Bathory was said to have presided over these tortures; When she was too tired to wield the instruments herself she was supposed to have retired to bed, ordered the girls to be brought to her, and bitten lumps off their flesh.

Speculations

Stories were soon being told of blood-spattered rooms and it was believed that the countess had been caught, literally red-handed, in the process of torturing and killing yet another victim.

The suggestion that Bathory may have been insane through inbreeding seems particularly unfair. Her letters show that she was a level-headed wife and mother. Her husband, Count Bathory, died when she was in her early forties, and she immediately became a very competent manager of his vast estates.

This was probably the cause of her downfall. Women in 17th-century Hungary were supposed to retire and mourn after their husband's demise, but Bathory was a powerful public figure in her region. "You will find a man in me!" she boasted in one of her letters. There was a high-level conspiracy - male, of course - to get this turbulent woman out of the way.

For modern writers to portray her as a lesbian dominatrix is an absurd anachronism, since neither sadism nor female homosexuality were concepts that then existed.

Vampires, too, were later inventions, and though Bathory was accused of cannibalism, nobody in her own time thought of describing her as a bloodsucker.

The true vampires in the story seem to have been her accusers, ruthlessly bleeding her dry of her rights, possessions and freedom. Once she had been locked up and discredited, no further action was deemed necessary - and since the 600 corpses were probably a fiction, there were no bereaved relatives demanding that the murderer be brought to justice.

Elizabeth Bathory died a few years after her arrest, while still confined in her castle.

The Countess Dracula legend began to materialize around her name in the 18th century, more than a century after her death.

This is not to say she did not murder people. She was a strong and aggressive woman by many accounts after all. But 400 years after the investigation it is impossible to display evidence supporting her innocence or her guilt.

But, it is reasonable to doubt she bathed in the blood of victims and it is reasonable to think that the number of victims is exaggerated by local folklore.

In the end the first written accounts of her story appeared more than 100 years after her death.

 

Elizabeth Bathory