You are on page 1of 31

The Political Lady Dracula

A Historical Perspective on Countess Erzsebet Bathory

The Truth Behind the Myth

Ami Rebecca Meyers

History 499: Senior Seminar in History

Dr. Shirli Brautbar

Nevada State College

Spring 2014

1
Abstract:

My fascination with Countess began when I was in high school. I'd read the novel “The Blood

Countess” by Andrei Cordescu and became truly enamored. At first I'd wondered if he'd just been that

good of a writer who could create such a dynamic and real character. I began to look into the Countess.

I spent so much time looking into ever aspect of the myth of the Blood Countess. It began to dawn on

me that perhaps history was hiding something.

Over the last few years my research has taken a different route. I began looking into why the

Countess did what she did, why she was never actually tried and why we know her to be only a

monster and nothing more. I began to wonder if Erzsebet had been a threat to someone. I found a

thousand and one conspiracies on why she was called the Blood Countess, on who she had upset on

who saw her as threatening.Politically speaking Erzsebet was not one to be messed with. Being able to

finance wars against the Ottomans Hungary loved her and her husband. Her family was one of the most

prestigious in all of Hungarian history and some members were unhappy with Erzsebet's power.

This paper is truly a passion piece for me. It was my opportunity to utilize my resources and

really investigate my own theory as to why history and historians portray her as a monster. I was able

to, for a moment any way, rewrite history the way I saw it with what I believed about the Countess. I

have been enraptured with history's account of the Countess, and my research forced me into

uncovering the truth.

2
Introduction:

Vampires and monsters have long been taught to be imaginations running rampant. Every ghost

we see is merely an illusion, yet if we go back in time history tells us a different story. Each ghost,

every myth and boogieman, all the monsters under the bed have roots, they all begin somewhere.

History sometimes clouds the truth, hiding the darkest monsters away in a place where they can never

escape. Then little by little these monsters escape. The myth of the Lady Dracula or Blood Countess

began in Hungary in the early part of the seventeenth century. A countess whose lust for life and

vigorous experimentation lead to a horrific and often misconstrued legacy. What history fails to tell us,

is that sometimes the monsters we have, weren't monsters to begin with. Countess Erzsebet Bathroy is

known, most memorably, for her reign of terror and influence over the occult as the Bloody Countess.

However her influence over Hungarian politics as well as the Papal seat during her time in power

ultimately left Hungary at an economic advantage while leaving the country in a state of political

disarray.

Erzsebet Bathory, wife of Ferenc Nasdsdy, was a Hungarian countess in the early part of the

seventeenth century. Coming from one of the most influential families in the region and being the

widow of a highly influential count Erzsebet became one of the most wealthy and politically significant

women in the history of the country. Her wealth, stemming from both her family's and husband's

estates, was independent of the principalities she ruled over; thus making her a value political and

financial ally for the Pope in his war with the Turks. With Ferenc being one of Hungary's most notable

fighters against the Turks and married to Erzaebet, this relationship that grew between Erzsebet and the

Pope became extremely beneficial for the country. The independence of her wealth also allowed for

Hungary's economic infrastructure to remain far more intact than other countries also fighting against

the Ottomans.

During this time of reformation in Europe women were intended to be and expected to be docile

3
and delicate creatures, made to take care of households, large or small, and to bear and birth children.

Society was no place for strong independent women who were capable of running countries along with

ensuring her own children received a world class education, her husbands welfare was maintained and

the countries budgets remained intacti. In many respects the country of Hungary became her ultimate

household, managing it and caring for its people was an amplified case of being the dutiful wife. Oddly

enough it was the characteristics and expectations of this traditional docile female that primed Erzsebet

to be such a commanding leader.

As time wore on Erzsebet aged, as we all do, and began to fear for her health and vitality. This

began her vain endeavors to reverse the aging process. Consumed by vanity and pride she started

believing in the powers of lotions and potions aimed to preserve her youth. This was a slippery slope.

While Erzsebet's experimentation did lead to countless deaths and hundreds of mutilated girls, her

detailed diaries offered more to the history of medicine than most other documents from that era. As

meticulous as she was, her efforts produced little results in the way she wanted them too. In the end

she was charged with murder, along with a few servants with whom she was close too. The servants

were tried and convicted for their crimes, with most of them facing death a few managed to confess and

escape to their jail cells with their tongues cut out. Erzsebet is an anomaly however. Charged by her

uncle Gregory Thurzso she faced no trial for her crimes. Instead she was walled into her castle, an

extreme case of house arrest. During this time she was still expected to run her household and had

limited control over her country. Upon her death three years later all control and fortune was

transferred to her uncle, the very man who had imprisoned her.

Historians seem to pick and choose what aspects of the Countess Bathory's life they want to

shine light on and what they'd like to keep hidden. Most see Erzsebet as the Blood Countess, the Lady

Dracula whose murder count is as vast and varied as they come. Documents only show 250 victims, yet

history charges her with over 600. A skewed perception, much of her life is translated and written out

4
by male historians, twisting her story to fit what history allowed from females.

Literature Review:

The research used in this paper was conducted in multiple parts. Part one focused on Erzsebet

Bathory as a person, politically, emotionally, and from every possible perspective. This meant pouring

through book after book sifting through what is out there. The second aspect to my research was more

taking a more in depth look into Hungary at the time. By looking at maps, texts written about

Hungary's economic situation at the time along with the political landscape at the time. This component

of the research aided in the formation and understanding of the argument presented.

Erzsebet Bathory was a Hungarian Countess born into the prestigious Bathory family and is

known as being one of the most accomplished female serial killers of all time. Her familial ties with the

Habsburg dynasty as well as her husband's influence left Erzsebet at an economic and political

advantage upon his deathii. Erzsebet never remarried out of concern for losing her prestige, and

Hungary ultimately thrived from this decision. Conducing research into the Countess' life is both

difficult and rewarding; sources are limited, and translations can be finicky. The payoff for being

passionate about the subject has lead me to the best possible form of my argument, though that was not

without struggle. Most sources focus primarily on the lore and myth surrounding the Countess' more

prolific and monstrous side, heavily incorporating the “Bloody Countess” aspect of her life. This is an

especially prevalent theme in Raymond McNally's workiii, which spans several decades and is some of

the leading research in the field of “Bathory”.

Starting with “Dracula Was A Woman” ivby McNally, he is focused around the vampire lore that

surrounds her, yet he also deals with the complex relationships that surrounded her personally, along

with those that affected Hungary. McNally also goes into detail about her relationship with Gregorii

Thurzo, who is a known political rival, accuser, and cousin of Bathory.v The perspective that he takes

5
on this relationship was extremely beneficial to my own research. As a leading author on the Countess

McNally's other two booksvi were also utilized in an effort to gain the most information on Hungary,

vampire lore, and the Countess. In “In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires”
vii
McNally, and co author Radu Florescu explore more of the myth surrounding vampires, along with

their history. While this book does not center on the Countess, it does entertain the concept that her

monsterization was in part caused by her political ability and the power she wielded.

A second leading author in the field of Bathory research is Kimberly Craft. Craft's work on

Bathory has been some of the most assertive in presenting a differing viewpoint On who she was.

Principally Craft takes a solid legal approach to why Erszebet was not fully tried and yet faced a

conviction and imprisonment for her crimes. In “The Infamous Lady”viii we get a full legal work up of

who Erszebet was and what the political situation was at the time. We also get access to a slew of first

hand documents that Craft carefully translated from Hungarian to English. These documents were some

of the most helpful in the research process as Craft presents her argument on Erszebet's case and lack of

trial. The most interesting aspect of this is the accusations Craft makes in defense of Erszebet.

Several of Craft's other books were beneficial to my research as well, particularly “The Private

Letters of Countess Erszebet Bathory”ix. This volume is filled with letters and documents, with minimal

commentary from Craft. The most important, at least to my research, aspect of this book is some of her

commentary on how the Countess authored letters and signed her name. In my own thesis of how the

Countess ruled and reigned over Hungary. The significance of her signature is explained in this book

and the differences had a far greater impact than most historians had originally thought them to have.

Craft's other book on the Countess is a memoirx written to be filled with actual evidence, yet presented

as a novel in order to get the reader interested and learning. While this isn't the typical book to be used

for research the information within did help to figure out a few key points in the relationships that the

6
Countess had with her servants, especially those who helped her torture her victims. Each of these in

their own way was extremely helpful.

Finding sources that would let me have access to the Countess on a somewhat personal level

was tricky and delicate. One book in, “The Bloody Countess,”xi details Erszebet Bathory's psyche while

incorporating details of her personal life that often go ignored. It begs the question of why she became

a monster as well as showing her political and economic prowess. The details in Valentine Penrose's

book, translated by Alexander Trocchi, explore her as a person and not as folklore expanding on my

argument of her political and economic impact on history. This look into Erszebet's mind, into her

family life as a child and her politically arranged marriage gives more fuel to the fire that is the

precieved rivalry between the Countess and Thurzo.

Other information about the Countess that historians have found to be useful were obtained

from a myriad of sources including a few online, an excellent work by Tony Thornexii on how the

effects of her “vampireism” affected Hungary and firsthand documents. Yet in order to fully grasp the

picture I had to look deeper into the country and expectations for women at the time. Fifteenth and

Sixteenth century Noblewomen were not particularly adept to running countries, nor were they

intelligent enough. Thus making Erzsebet an exception.xiii

The history of Hungary is long and vast and is comprised of more details than I care to

remember. Laszlo Kontler's “A History of Hungary”xiv gives an extremely detailed and yet easily

readable and understandable account of Hungary's history. The country on a whole had a complex

relationship with the rest of Europe all while being divided up into principalities and not being a

cohesive unit. Colin Imberxv emphasizes the fact that during the time that the Bathory's were in charge,

along with Rudolpf, the country was physically whole while internally separate. Kontler isn't the only

7
author to point this out, or to detail the complexity of Hungary. Robert Kannxvi specifically looks at the

Habsburg empire between 1526 and the early twentieth century. This insight was useful to understand

the economic aspect of Hungary which isn't detailed in English as many books as you would think.

Another rather large aspect, though I failed to realize it initially, of my research is gender roles

at the time. I looked into other rulers during this period, looking to members of the Habsburg family as

well as neighboring countries and came across a similar case, Ivan the Terriblexvii. Now the issue of

gender is not one that I had considered until this came up. Being familiar with some of the other

Transylvanian rulers I was surprised that Ivan's story so closely resembled that of Erzsebet's. Robert

Payne and Nikita Romanof f co-authored “Ivan the Terrible”xviii an account of his life and his true to

name reign of terror. However his experiences struck me as odd and spurred me on to finding out more

about how gender roles affected this period of time.

Several other authors gave insight into the roles of women at this time. The most interesting

look is on the roles of gender and femininity was a chapter from “The Witch as Muse: Art, Gender, and

Power in Early Modern Europe”xix. While the entirety of the book is simply fascinating the most useful

was chapter four, “Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsbug Power and Artistic Invention in Antwerp.” Now,

this isn't the common route to take when exploring gender roles, but the most useful is found to be

information to be contained within art textbooks. Artists viewed society as it was and made

interpretations based on their perceptions. Linda Hults' essay on the role of women, specifically

noblewomen, during the Habsburg era from the eyes of an artist was extremely informative.

Noblewomen during this time were expected to be docile and delicate. Unable to lead, rule , or think

for themselves. Those that broke this mold were portrayed as witches, evil , and wicked. They were not

lauded for their achievements and Hults' essay proves this repeatedly.

8
The final aspect to this research was looking into the Ottoman empire. While this was not one of

the main themes of the paper it is one that is recurring and due to the war, economic and political effect

the Turks had on Hungary it is one that was worth the time and effort. This was proven in Colin Imber's

“The Ottoman Empire: 1300-1650”.xx While much of the text was history before the time of the

Countess the latter part of the book did. Beyond looking into the mere tactical and military history of

the Empire there is a section where it goes into detail about the Turks struggle with the Habsburgs and

the Bathory family, particularly Erzsebets husband Ferenc Nadsady. More over it includes letters

supposedly written by Ferenc when, due to other texts and research endeavors we find him ill from war

wounds and unable to drink water with out assistance. This goes to further support many historians

theory of Erzsebet forging documents under her husbands name.xxi

When all is said and done there is a sincere lack of information surrounding the Countess

Bathory. What little information there is out there, is most commonly in a dead language, or a dialect of

Hungarian that Google translate simply can't handle. This lack of direct information has lead me to a

round about goose chase to discover my facts hidden within other books. Often I'm looking at mere

chapters with in a text such as David P. Daniel's “Piety, Politics and Perversion: Noblewomen in

Reformation Hungary.”xxii contained within “Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe:

Public and Private Worlds.” edited by Sherrin Marshall. Another brillant piece was an essay I found in

Robert J.W. Evans and T.I.V. Thomas “Crown, Church, and Estates: Central European Politics in the

Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” xxiii

The last round of information that was found to be the most useful is individual lectures found

from various history journals and other professorsxxiv. While not all of them were entirely helpful, few

have been found to be especially useful in emphasizing my thesis and beliefs about the Countess and

Hungary at this specific point in history. While I have not finished exploring all of my primary sources

9
those are not far behind and the information from my secondary sources is beyond what I can include

in my overall representation of my argument. I cannot begin to comprehend or find every bit of

information that exists but that doesn't stop me from looking. The Countess Bathory is a truly

fascinating woman who deserves to be remembered as a political and economically sound woman,

leading her country to success when ruin was knocking at the door.

Background:

Born on August 8th 1560, Erzsebet Bathory was one of several children born to George and

Anna Bathory and was a part of one of the noblest lines in Hungary. Her father George, a member of

the Ecsed line of the Bathory family was brothrer to Andrew Bonaventura Bathory a previous Voivod

of Transylvania. Her mother Anna was the daughter of Voivod Stephen Bathory from the Somlyo line

of the family. Erzsebet was the cousin of Stefan Bathory, a renowned king of Poland as well as a Duke

of Transylvania. Raised on her families estate in Nyirbator, Hungary where she spent most of her

childhood in Ecsed Castle being educated academically, with an emphasis in arithmetic and foreign

languages. Erzsebet became fluent in Latin, German and Greek; throughout the course of her life her

academic pursuits never wavered. She later became fluent in French, English, Spanish and Turkish,

while also expanding on the military knowledge she'd received as a child.

In 1572 Erzsebet was engaged to Ferenc Nadasdy, only twelve at the time there were political

motivations behind this arrangement. Ferenc came from another noble Hungarian family and the two

were wed three years later in 1575. They settled down in Varanno and Ferenc went off to battle in one

of the wars against the Ottomans, but not before gifting his young bride with her first estate of Csjete

Castle. Cjsete was surrounded by a small village and farm lands that bordered the Carpathian

Mountains.

10
During a time known as the Long War a period of thirteen years from 1593 to 1606xxv Erzsebet

was responsible for the defense and security of Ferenc's lands and accounts, which were particularly

viable as they lay en-route to Austria from Hungary. There was a very legitimate threat of attack at this

time due to a series of attacks by the Ottomans in near by villages specifically those along the borders

of Royal Hungary and what is known as Ottoman Occupied Hungary. Erzsebet's reputation as a kind

hearted and responsible ruler began to flourish during this time. There were an abundance of instances

in which she interceded for a woman being tortured, raped, or plundered by the Ottoman Turks. She

took these women in and let some of them become members of her household. Erzsebet and Ferenc had

several children, though only four lived to adult hood with their daughter Anna dying not long after her

own marriage. Ferenc succumbed to war wounds and died at the age of 48, leaving his prominent estate

and wealth to the care of his new widow an action that would later cause a rift between Erzsebet and

Grygorii Thruzo.

After the death of her husband Countess Bathory all but disappeared from public life for quite

some time, a typical custom for widows in mourning. The Countess could always be found to be

dressed in modest and demure clothing which was frequently dark in color if not simply black and

covered with a veil. This was traditional widow attire, though Erzsebet continued the fashion statement

until her own death. This is seen throughout many of her later portraitsxxvi and lead to several

accusations of early witchcraft. Furthering these accusations were her compatriots, chiefly among them

was Dorka and the rest were mostly servants and former soldiers of Ferenc'sxxvii. Over the course of

several years detailed diaries were kept with descriptions of every victim of the Countess's futile

efforts. Historians have not been able to recover or translate all of these diaries, what has been

uncovered, including court documents show a frighteningly different picture than what history portrays.

The initiation of any accusations came from a minister that was not Catholic, but Lutheran. With

11
Erzsebet being protected by the current Popexxviii, such accusations would have never come from

anyone in her own faith, regardless of their authenticity. Thruzo, Erzsebet's newly Protestant uncle saw

his opportunity to make a strike against his niece and thus bring about the end of Countess Bathory.

Historians still debate on caused Erzsebet to succumb to the primitive urges of her blood baths
xxix
What remains prevalent are the various and some what unexplored theories that lead to Erzsebet's

imprisonment in her castle when she never faced a trial. The remainder of this paper explores the

multifaceted and complex social, economic and political circumstances that seemingly provide the

most logical and well rounded conclusions to the mystery that surrounds one of histories most

terrifying monsters.

Gender in the Time of Bathory

During the Seventeenth century the Ottoman nation had invaded and pillaged Hungary during a

series of Holy-Wars.xxx Homesteads were being attacked from all sides and the majority of those left to

defend them were the wives and children of noblemen and generals or soldiers that had gone off to

fight the Turks. Now while this is not a shocking fact the truth of the matter became painstakingly clear

that at this time women were not properly trained in the ways of household management. It was one

task to order servants around and raise children, but to be responsible for property and finances and the

well being of surrounding lands, they simply were not up to the job due to a lack of education.

Men during this time were, as always, expected to be the providers and the protectors of the

home. With the current political situation affecting the home life, women were put into a position they

hadn't been in before. This increased the already present struggle that women faced and with their new

found power positions, causing a sharp change in the perception of what being a woman meant. The

religious struggles at this time didn't help with this perception either. Women and men of the Catholic

12
faith during the Ottoman invasion were still upholding the traditional values and roles of the genders.

Women and men who were Protestant or more free thinking were accepting of the shift in dynamic,

regardless of its permanency.xxxi An added perception of women during this time, and a view that was

later posed on Erzsebet and several of her servants, was that a powerful women was witch like. Her

power, though posed due to circumstance and not devilish pursuits, was a constant threat to the

dynamic that was socially acceptable. This image was portrayed in a slew of artwork at the time, (see

Figure One)xxxii

Erzsebet was a juxtaposition to this standard of femininity during this time. While she married

young, par for the course when coming from a politically motivated family, she was educated by her

parents, and her husband sought to continue her education after they were married. There was a period

of time in their marriage where they did not immediately focus on producing heirs, causing Erzsebet's

time to be filled with more practical matters such as finance management and military maneuvers. Her

education was by far a perk of her familial ties and the significance of her family to the Habsburg

empire.

More over the significance of her situation was also spread and shared with the surrounding

principalities that were the responsibility of her husband. These were women who could barely fend for

themselves who quickly learned how to farm, manage household expenses as well as simple and

effective ways to defend their homes. Erzsebet had a stern and reproachful outlook when it came to any

aspect of her home or estates. In many respects she ruled, reigned, conquered and conducted her

business in such a manner that she placed herself on an equal level with her male counter parts. As

uncommon as this was for the time the precedent set by Erzsebet changed the political landscape of the

country.

13
Gender Perspective: Ivan the Terriblexxxiii

Ivan IV Vasilyevich was the Grand Prince of Mosow from the age of three, having been born in

1530, to 1584. He ruled in Russia, neighboring Hungary, and was a fierce and cruel ruler. Born in

August of 1530 he was raised similarly to the Countess. He faced a harsh home life while being lauded

as the long awaited child of his father. He faced brutalizing beatings from his father for the smallest

infractions and often had to leave home for months at a time for military training. Through the course

of his reign Russia expanded its territory, defeated the Ottomans several times and went to war with the

Habsburgs.

When he was in his thirties how ever, Ivan faced several traumatizing and life threatening

battles that would lead to his decsion to make Russia a more religious nation. In 1533 Ivan fell ill,

almost to the point of death causing a stark change in his personality and behavior. After losing his wife

Anastasia to the same disease, Ivan went mad. Accusing his own noblemen of killing his wife so that

she would no longer be a distraction to him they were beaten, tortured, and thrust on spikes to die in

public, all in the name of Ivan IV and God.

Ivan is known as the Terrible for his military strategy, similar in nature to those of Ference

Nasdady and his treatment of those he felt betrayed him and God. His own series of Holy Wars took

close to three thousand lives, murdering people in all manner of ways including torture, being burned

alive, being fed to wild dogs, and Ivan's favorite: impalement. With the belief that God was on his side

and the ultimate cause for all his actions Ivan was never brought to trial, nor publically accused of war

crimes in his own right.

Politics and the Economy in the Time of Bathory

14
With her husband fighting the Ottomans Erzsebet was left to defend and rule several

principalities right along the border of Hungary and Austria. Though a member of one of the most

noble families by birth Erzsebet's prolonged seat of power altered the landscape significantly. She

would author correspondence on behalf of and in place of her husband, often leaving him out of the

situation all together. Frequently she was found to be both judge and jury amongst the people she ruled,

ignoring most protocols that had been established through years of tradition. As the supreme authority

figure there was little tolerance for disobedience and ignorance. Giving her that final justification of

her authority was the maintaining of the Catholic Church in her pocket. Erzsebet and Ferenc's private

finances allowed Ferenc and his men to fight in battles and mount attacks against the Turks that would

have been lost with out the currency that had become so vital. In letters to Erzsebet from the Pope and

the Catholic Churchxxxiv Pope Clement routinely wrote to the Countess and to her accountant Imre

Vasvary begging for funds to supply other militia with supplies during the winter months when the icy

terrain caused more deaths than the Turks.

At this time Royal Hungary, a part of the Habsburg dynasty, was highly authoritative and

dominant monarchy with influence all over Europe. King Matthias, the king of the Habsburg empire

during Erzsebets rule in Hungary, controlled the nations bank, financial transactions, military, supplies,

foreign affairs and the borders it controlled. There were other powerful positions in Hungary such as

Palentine, a role filled by Erzsebets uncle Grygorii Thurzo. Similar to our system of government the

Palentine answered to the King and a royal advisory board.xxxv This however caused a power struggle

within the country.

Erzsebet was already in control of a large portion of Royal Hungary. King Matthiasxxxvi along

with Palentine Thruzo were frequently pulling from the coffers of Erzsebet and Ferenc to finance wars

against the Ottomans or to repay debts to the Pope. A Pope which would later also pull from the very

15
same coffers.xxxvii This weakens Matthias' and Thurzo's political positions along with those of the

advisors they both directed and drew support from. The longer they were forced to accept money from

the Bathory's the longer they were unable to have complete control over the country. At one point

Thurzo had demanded so much money from the newly widowed Countess that it resulted in the sale

and liquidation of the castle at Theben.xxxviii Financially, the dependence the country had on Erzsebet's

purse set them up for a civil war upon her death. Her accounts and purse would pass down to her son

and he would become one of the wealthiest men in Hungary's history.

The Accusation, Trial and Imprisonment of Erzsebet Bathory

Erzsebet Bathory is well known for her imprisonment and crimes of torturing and murdering

hundreds of maidens to “bathe in their blood so that she might remain young and beautiful”xxxix. She

was accused of murdering over six hundred young girls, and torturing countless more in these vain

efforts. The leading accusor was none other than her uncle, Grygorii Thruzo,xl while the initial

accusation came from a Lutheran minister known for having personal conflicts with the countess.xli

With the transition from Catholicism to more Protestant religions such as Lutheran and Evangelical

faiths Hungary was in somewhat of a political upheaval at this time. xlii

Istvan Magyari, the Lutheran minister, had been assigned to the area surrounding Csjete Castle

by King Matthias II and Thruzo to spy on the Countess.xliii At this time Erzsebet had been refusing to

finance any more wars or armies against the Turks. Her finances, while they were vast, were quickly

dwindling without repayment from the Pope, King Matthais II and Thurzo. With no money coming in

from the religious center Erzsebet began to change the religion of her lands and people, making

Magyari's implementation rather uncomplicated at first. The struggle ultimately began with Magyari

over stepping his bounds with the Countess, and demanding her obedience to the church. xliv Observing

16
this conflict and reading about it in the letters between Erzsebet and Thruzoxlv it is easy to understand

how Thurzo was able to get away with his treasonous acts for as long as he did. However his ultimate

accusation of Erzsebet attributed her crimes with those of war crimes, leading to King Matthias II

stepping in and taking over.xlvi

In 1610 King Matthias II charged Thruzo, who was at this time still Palatine of Hungary, to

investigate and collect evidence against the Countess.xlvii Erzsebet, unaware of this investigation,

continued keeping her diaries and records of the abuse and torture she did commit, though not for the

vain reasons history has presented. Erzsebet was fascinated with the aspect of blood as life, a common

thread amongst Seventeenth Century thought. She believed that with the right combination of blood,

humors, and biles one could live forever.xlviii The victims of the Countess began as young and innocent

(read virgin) maidens that would attend her court, or be sent to her for education by wealthy dignitaries.
xlix
Between December of 1610 and February of 1611 Erzsebet, along with several members of her

household staff were arrested and charged with crimes against the King and Country of Hungary.l

During Erzsebet's trial the Countess was never presented before the judge or jury, and no one

was allowed to speak in her defense or else they faced accusations of treason against the King.li The

man presiding over these trials was Theodosious Syrmiensis de Szulo, a man who had been educated

with Thurzo and was well known to be associated with the Palentine.lii de Szulo was responsible for,

allegedly, incorporating his own household staff into the home of the Countess, so that his servants

could spy and uncover the truth about Csjete.

Each of the Countess's servants, along with those placed in her household by de Szulo and

Thurzo, were made to testify in open court. Each having the same story, and each claiming that there

was a mountain of evidence contained within the books and diaries penned by Erzsebet.liii The bodies of

17
Erzsebet's victims were uncovered in mass graves, yet the number of bodies and accounts found did not

match with the testimony of her servants.liv There was an approximately 350 to 400 body discrepancy

in the count. While the location of the diaries was never brought up in open court it is rumored that the

location was buried with the Countess. Other rumors discuss the burning or destruction of the diaries

by Matthias and Thruzo to hide the truth. lv Thirty two letters written by Erzsebet during her trial are

held in the Hungarian National Archives in Budapest. lvi

Erzsebet's crime and accusation was equivalent to a modern day war crime. Since there was

insufficient and illegally obtained evidence the court was encouraged by King Matthias II to try her

case as they saw fit with what they discerned to be true. With no one being able to speak on behalf of

the Countess, charges against her and witnesses testifying against her were able to say exactly what the

King and Palentine wanted them too.lvii

Erzsebet was imprisoned in Castle Csjete, under house arrest, and was walled into her room.

There was a small window eight feet up on a wall, a small whole left in the floor for her to empty her

chamber pot and there was a small opening in the wall for her to be given food and small flasks of

wine. lviii She was still ordered to run her household and principalities, and was forced to sign them over

to Thurzo who had become in effect the executor for her estates.lix On August 24th, 1614 Erzsebet was

reported as being found dead, presumably of a heart attack caused by stress and starvation.lx It is hard to

find the actual date of her death, records indicate several untouched plates of food and when they broke

down the wall into her room her chamber pot was dry.lxi With the death of Erzsebet Bathory being

official Thurzo was now in possession of her bank accounts, lands, servants and the welfare of her son

Pal.

Theories About The Countess

18
There are hundreds of theories surrounding the Countess and why she was inaccurately accused,

not tried, and given such a harsh and contradictory punishment for her supposed crimes. The most

common and historically visible is the political and financial motivations from King Matthias II and

Grygorii Thurzo. Historians have argued that Erzsebet was the victim of a collaborative effort to

dethrone and discredit her after she began to refuse to finance any more military strikes against the

Turks. History at this time is in support of this theory, between the Ottoman wars, the intrpersonal

struggle with the Hapsburg monarchy and the ever present religious conflicts, power over Hungary was

fragile and spread to thin. Since Erzsebet was a majority land holder and quite wealthy she was one of

the more viable threats to the present leadership in the country, making her a political threat as well.

Over the course of history the conspiracies surrounding Erzsebet have been revisited and

revised. Newer investigations into the Countess's life and trial pose a newer theory, that the whole

reason for her trial and conviction was solely relgisious. This theory proposes that Erzsebet was less

than willing to alter the religion of her region of Hungary. With this being the cause of Magyri's

accusations, her lack of a trial would make more sense. Customary to the time when a preacher made

an accusation it was presumed that it was being made before God and therefore unfaltering true. This

would then put Matthias and Thurzo in the precarious position of punishing Erzsebet in a manner that

would satisfy the church and not render the Countess useless.

A third theory that surrounds the countess and her trial is spurred on by letters found in Thurzo's

home after he died. IN these letters there is the claim that he confesses to setting up his niece to cover

up his own crimes of brutalizing and murdering young girls to satisfy his own less than suitable sexual

perversions. This is not the most prominent and popular theory as it involves several unsubstantiated

claims and documents that, among almost every document surrounding the Countess and this trial,

were burned upon Thurzo's death. It is impossible to know what really happened, though history would

19
lead one to believe that the Countess was a rampant murderess, torturing and killing girls in the name

of vanity.

Conclusions:

There are several conclusions which can be drawn from this research as well as from what

history tells us. The first is that as a woman Erzsebet was a political threat to all of Hungary from day

one. She was well educated, came from the right family at the right time and was married to one of

Hungary's greatest warriors. Her husband continued her education and placed a great deal of trust in

her, causing her to be elevated in station and power while he was away fighting.

With Erzsebet being such a powerful and prominent threat it is understandable that her

overlords and the men in power would want to see her stifled or muted entirely, as long as she

maintained lining their pockets with the much needed funds to fight the Ottoman Empire. Ruling and

leading a country, even part of a country is no easy task. The respect that Erzsebet garnered, that she

fought for and earned from her people was something to be admired, instead of being feared and

rejected or mocked by the men and male society. Erzsebet, was a leader like no other shoving gender

norms to the side and dismissing them.

The lore that now surrounds the Countess is appalling and befitting of her station and grandeur.

Her life has been the inspiration for countless movies, books (the first being published in 1729 by a

Jesuit scholar named Laszlo Turoczi), television episodes for various crime oulets, and enthusiasts

around the world flock to the remains of Csjete Castle in the vain effort of seeing Erzsebet's ghost

which is rumored to walk the halls. The legends that the story of her trial has created are imaginative

and reckless. Popular culture has kept the Bloody Countess alive and well for centuries.

20
What history tells us is often what we consider to be true. History and historians are never liars,

they are the ones reporting the facts as they have found them. In this instance hisotry is wrong. The

portrayal of the Countess Erzsebet Bathory de Essced is a farce, contrived out of the history left behind

by the men she threatened. Had they not written her out perhaps she would not be the monster she is

known as today. Her crimes and anatomy would not be such a spectacle. Men in this time, for instance

Ivan the Terrible, were committing crimes that were just as deplorable and degrading and they were

being reported accurately as a way of boasting or bragging. Had she been a man, would she be

forgiven?

21
Works Cited
ButurovicÌチ, Amila, and İrvin C. Schick. Women in the Ottoman Balkans gender, culture and history.

London: I.B. Tauris ;, 2007.

Craft, Kimberly. "Infamous Lady:The True Story of Countess Erzsebet Bathory - Home." Infamous

Lady:The True Story of Countess Erzsebet Bathory - Home. http://www.infamouslady.com

(accessed February 20, 2014).

Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington, Ky.:

Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

Craft, Kimberly L., and Kimberly L. Craft. The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011.

Craft, Kimberly L.. "Letters to Imre Vasvary." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 18-30.

Craft, Kimberly L.. "Letters to Ferenc Batthyany." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌ

チthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 31-42.

Craft, Kimberly L.. "Bocksai Letters." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 42-75.

Craft, Kimberly L.. "Letters to Grygorii Thruzo." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌ

チthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78.

Craft, Kimberly L.. "Various Letters ." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78-96.

Craft, Kimberly L.. "Court Documents." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 95-111.

Craft, Kimberly L., and Kimberly L. Craft. Elizabeth Bathory: a memoire as told by her court master,

Benedict Deseö. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace], 2011.

Evans, Robert John Weston, and T. I. V. Thomas. Crown, church, and estates: central European
22
politics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991.

Hults, Linda C.. "Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power, and Articstic Invention in Antwerp." In

The witch as muse: art, gender, and power in early modern Europe. Philadelphia: University of

Pennsylvania, 2005. 109-144.

Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. Houndmills, Basingstoke,

Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Inalcik, Halil. "Map of Anatolia." In The Ottoman Empire: the classical age, 1300-1600. London:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973. viii.

Inalcik, Halil. "Map of The Expansion of the Ottoman Empire." In The Ottoman Empire: the classical

age, 1300-1600. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973. ix.

Inalcik, Halil. "Ottoman Provinces Sixteenth Century." In The Ottoman Empire: the classical age,

1300-1600. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973. xii.

Inalcik, Halil. "The Ottoman-Hapsburg Frontier, 1600." In The Ottoman Empire: the classical age,

1300-1600. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973. xi.

Inalcik, Halil. "The Borders of the Ottoman Empire sixteenth/seventeenth centuries ." In The Ottoman

Empire: the classical age, 1300-1600. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973. x.

Jansen, Sharon L.. The monstrous regiment of women: female rulers in early modern Europe. New

York: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2002.

Kann, Robert A.. A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of California

Press, 1974.

Kann, Robert A.. "Map 1 Habsburg Empire; historical development." In A history of the Habsburg

Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. 617.

Kann, Robert A.. "Austria-Hungary; political organization." In A history of the Habsburg Empire,

1526-1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. 618.

23
Kann, Robert A.. "Austria-Hungry, national group." In A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. 619.

Kann, Robert A.. "Austria-Hungary, Religions." In A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918.

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. 620.

Kann, Robert A.. "The Habsburg Empire and the German Condederation." In A history of the Habsburg

Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. 621.

Kontler, Laszlo . A History of Hungary. Great Britian : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Marshall, Sherrin, and David P. Daniel. "Piety, Politics and Perversion: Noblewomen in Reformation

Hungary." In Women in reformation and counter-reformation Europe: public and private

worlds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. 68-88.

McNally, Raymond T.. Dracula was a woman: in search of the blood countess of Transylvania. New

York: McGraw-Hill, 1983.

McNally, Raymond T., and Radu Florescu. In search of Dracula: the history of Dracula and vampires.

[New, updated, and rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994.

McNally, Raymond T., Nicholas S. Racheotes, and Hugh Leonard Guilderson. Life lines: perspectives

on Russian and European culture, society and politics : a festschrift for Professor Raymond T.

McNally. Boulder [Colo.: East European Monographs ;, 2001.

Payne, Robert, and Nikita Romanoff. Ivan the Terrible. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.

Penrose, Valentine, and Alexander Trocchi. The bloody countess. S.l: Sun Vision, 2012.

Rickels, Laurence A.. "Lecture One ." In The vampire lectures. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Press, 1999. 1-14.

Thorne, Tony. Countess Dracula: the life and times of the blood countess, Elisabeth BaÌチthory.

London: Bloomsbury, 1997.

Watenpaugh, Heghnar Zeitlian. The image of an Ottoman city imperial architecture and urban

24
experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th centuries. Leiden: Brill, 2004.

25
i Hults, Linda C.. "Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power, and Articstic Invention in

Antwerp." In The witch as muse: art, gender, and power in early modern Europe. Philadelphia:

University of Pennsylvania, 2005. 109-144.

ii Marshall, Sherrin, and David P. Daniel. "Piety, Politics and Perversion: Noblewomen in

Reformation Hungary." In Women in reformation and counter-reformation Europe: public and

private worlds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. 68-88.

iii McNally, Raymond T.. Dracula was a woman: in search of the blood countess of Transylvania.

New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983

iv McNally, Raymond T.. Dracula was a woman: in search of the blood countess of Transylvania.

New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983

v Craft, Kimberly L.. "Letters to Grygorii Thruzo." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet

BaÌチthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78.

vi McNally, Raymond T., Nicholas S. Racheotes, and Hugh Leonard Guilderson. Life lines:

perspectives on Russian and European culture, society and politics : a festschrift for Professor

Raymond T. McNally. Boulder [Colo.: East European Monographs ;, 2001.

vii McNally, Raymond T., and Radu Florescu. In search of Dracula: the history of Dracula and

vampires. [New, updated, and rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994.

viii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

ix Craft, Kimberly L., and Kimberly L. Craft. The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌ

チthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011.

x Craft, Kimberly L., and Kimberly L. Craft. Elizabeth Bathory: a memoire as told by her court

master, Benedict Deseö. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace], 2011.

xi Penrose, Valentine, and Alexander Trocchi. The bloody countess. S.l: Sun Vision, 2012
xii Thorne, Tony. Countess Dracula: the life and times of the blood countess, Elisabeth BaÌチthory.

London: Bloomsbury, 1997.

xiii ButurovicÌチ, Amila, and İrvin C. Schick. Women in the Ottoman Balkans gender, culture and

history. London: I.B. Tauris ;, 2007.

xiv Kontler, Laszlo . A History of Hungary. Great Britian : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

xv Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. Houndmills,

Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

xvi Kann, Robert A.. A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1974.

xvii Payne, Robert, and Nikita Romanoff. Ivan the Terrible. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.

xviii Payne, Robert, and Nikita Romanoff. Ivan the Terrible. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.

xix Hults, Linda C.. "Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power, and Articstic Invention in

Antwerp." In The witch as muse: art, gender, and power in early modern Europe. Philadelphia:

University of Pennsylvania, 2005. 109-144.

xx Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. Houndmills,

Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

xxi Craft, Kimberly L., and Kimberly L. Craft. The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌ

チthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011.

xxii Marshall, Sherrin, and David P. Daniel. "Piety, Politics and Perversion: Noblewomen in

Reformation Hungary." In Women in reformation and counter-reformation Europe: public and

private worlds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989. 68-88.

xxiii Evans, Robert John Weston, and T. I. V. Thomas. Crown, church, and estates: central

European politics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. New York: St. Martin's Press,

1991.
xxiv Rickels, Laurence A.. "Lecture One ." In The vampire lectures. Minneapolis: University of

Minnesota Press, 1999. 1-14.

Watenpaugh, Heghnar Zeitlian. The image of an Ottoman city imperial architecture and urban

experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th centuries. Leiden: Brill, 2004.

xxv Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. Houndmills,

Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.


xxviHults, Linda C.. "Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power, and Articstic Invention in Antwerp." In
The witch as muse: art, gender, and power in early modern Europe. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania, 2005. 109-144.Linda Hults “Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power and Articstic Invention in
Antwerp.”

xxvii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xxviii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xxix Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xxx Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. Houndmills,

Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

xxxi Hults, Linda C.. "Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power, and Articstic Invention in

Antwerp." In The witch as muse: art, gender, and power in early modern Europe. Philadelphia:

University of Pennsylvania, 2005. 109-144.


xxxiiFigure One: Portrait of Erzsebet Bathory portrayed in blood red and black. Two associated colors with witchcraft
holding a “spellbook”. Hults, Linda C.. "Franken, the Rhetoric of Habsburg Power, and Articstic
Invention in Antwerp." In The witch as muse: art, gender, and power in early modern Europe.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. 109-144.

xxxiii Payne, Robert, and Nikita Romanoff. Ivan the Terrible. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2002.

xxxiv Craft, Kimberly L.. "Various Letters ." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78-96.


xxxv Kann, Robert A.. A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1974.

xxxvi Kann, Robert A.. A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1974.

xxxvii Craft, Kimberly L.. "Various Letters ." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory.

Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78-96.

xxxviii Kann, Robert A.. A history of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918. Berkeley: University of

California Press, 1974.


xxxixCraft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌ チ bet BaÌ チ thory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.From Kimberly Craft's The Infamous Lady

xl Craft, Kimberly L.. "Letters to Grygorii Thruzo." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet

BaÌチthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78.

xli Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xlii Imber, Colin. The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: the structure of power. Houndmills,

Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

xliii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xliv Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xlv Craft, Kimberly L.. "Letters to Grygorii Thruzo." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet

BaÌチthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 78.


xlviCraft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌ チ bet BaÌ チ thory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.Kimberly Craft The Infamous Lady

xlvii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,
Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xlviii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

xlix Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

l Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

li Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.


lii Penrose, Valentine, and Alexander Trocchi. The bloody countess. S.l: Sun Vision, 2012 Penrose
and Valentine The Bloody Countess

liii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

liv Craft, Kimberly L.. "Court Documents." In The private letters of Countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌ

チthory. Lexington, Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft], 2011. 95-111.

lv Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

lvi Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

lvii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

lviii Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

lix Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.


lx Craft, Kimberly L.. Infamous lady: the true story of countess ErzseÌチbet BaÌチthory. Lexington,

Ky.: Kimberly L. Craft, 2009.

lxi Penrose, Valentine, and Alexander Trocchi. The bloody countess. S.l: Sun Vision, 2012