Episode 101- Elizabeth Bathory (plus shownotes!)

Was Elizabeth Bathory a blood bathing beauty, or a widow framed to evade royal debts? And is blood bathing even possible!? All this and more in the first official episode of Herstory 101.

Show Notes

Elizabeth (Erzsébet) Bathory 1560-161

  • Sent to mary Ferenc Nasdasdy @ age 10
  • At age fifteen she married Ferenc Nasdasdy
  • Her wedding gift from Ference Nasdasdy was Csejte Castle
  • Her job was to manage the estate
  • 1578 her husband becomes the Chief of Hungarian Troops and she is in charge of stuff when he’s away
  • During the long war (1593-1606) she was in charge of keeping the area around the castle safe from the warring armies
  • This was actually a very big responsibility as Csejte had been sacked several times before and lay on the road to Vienna
  • She could read and write in four languages (German, Latin, Greek, and Hungarian) and was well educated so she was actually up to the task of keeping the area safe, she also stepped in on behalf of women whose futures had been ruined (a woman whose husband had been captured by the Turks and a woman whose daughter had been raped and impregnated)
  • She had 5 children with Ferenc (maybe 6 some historians claim that she had one more child with her but he wasn’t mentioned in her will and I don’t think that she had another kid)
  • Her children were raised by a Governess as she had been
  • Ferenc died in 1604 after they’d been married for 29 years from a degenerative disease
  • Ferenc entrusted his children and widow (Elizabeth) to György Thurzó
  • Rumors of terrible things the Bathory’s were doing started around 1603 and continued
  • Lutheran Minister Istvan Magyari made complaints against her in public but also at the court of Vienna
  • In 1610 the King Matthias the ll order Gyorgy Thurzo to investigate her murders
  • According to the witnesses, all of her victims were young girls, generally adolescents from the local peasants who had been sent to work with her as maids but eventually she started to kill the daughters of lesser nobility who had been sent to learn etiquette on her estates: Some of the accounts at the time said she
    • Severe beatings
    • Burning and mutilation of hands
    • Biting the flesh off of faces and arms and other body parts
    • Freezing
    • Starving
    • Sticking needles into people
    • Strangling with a silk scarf
    • Burned her servants with metal rods, coins, and keys
    • Stitched lips and tongues together
    • Baked a cake to red hot temperature and made a servant eat it
    • At night she’d chain up her servants till their wrists turned blue and blood came out of them
    • Left a naked and honeyed girl outside to be eaten by wasps, ants and an assortment of bugs
    • Made servants stand in ice water up to their necks till they died
    • Apparently kept five dead servants under a bed and fed them like they were alive
    • Made servants cook and then eat their own body parts or serve their body parts to guests (I believe without the guest’s knowledge)
    • Some witnesses named relatives who’d died by her hands
    • Others described torture that they’d seen on dead bodies
    • Two witnesses actually claimed to see her torturing and killing the girls
  • When Gyorgy Thurzo went to arrest her he claimed to have seen her covered in blood killing a woman with a half dead woman and a woman who was wounded
  • Four of her servants were also arrested in connection with her murders
  • King Matthias urged Gyorgy to sentence her to death but he convinced the king that they shouldn’t kill her because it would be “bad for the nobility”
  • The four servants who were arrested as accomplices had their fingers pulled off and then were thrown into a fire alive
  • Her one male co-defendant was beheaded and then thrown into a fire
  • She was put on trial and no one could agree on the exact number of victims, accounts vary from 30 to 650 people
  • She was put under house arrest and died four years later at the age of 54 from natural causes, I’m unsure of this is what I call the natural cause of being noble or not
  • Because she was put under house arrest the King and Gyorgy didn’t have to pay the extensive debts that they owed her
  • She did probably have people beat her servants who misbehaved and as was the custom of the time and often times servants did die from this
  • Gyorgy was also helping the King of Hungary control many of the wealthy noble families and Elizabeth Bathory refused to be controlled
  • The first written account of the murders and subsequent trial appeared in 1729 with Tragica Historia a book written by László Turóczi
  • At the time it was common for Widows to be blamed for natural death and called witches
  • The biggest embellishment after her death was that she bathed in virgins blood which is definitely untrue because it’s actually impossible to bathe in blood because it turns thick and gelatinous

Elizabeth Bathory has been credited with inspiring the story of Dracula because of the area (Transylvania was part of the Hungarian empire at the time and Bathory had estates in Transylvania, in fact, some of the murders supposedly happened there). Also, she was a countess and it’s Count Dracula.

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