Search This Blog

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Guest Post: Countess Bathory – Between legend and fact

My guest post today is from the lovely Melinda De Ross, a new author.  Whilst her romance is in a contemporary setting, she has needed to get under the skin of the Renaissance character, Madame Erzebet Bathory. She has been kind enough to share that research for my blog page! 

Handing over to Melinda and a bit about her story first!  


In the legendary Transylvania, a castle belonging to Countess Erzsébet Báthory is discovered. Cameraman Hunter Cole and broadcast journalist Serena Scott arrive to make a documentary about the discovery, and the sinister Hungarian noblewoman, known as the most prolific female serial killer in history. 

The two Americans could cope with roughing it in a fifteenth-century castle, with no modern amenities. They can even cope with each other, despite their initial mutual dislike for one another, which gradually turns into a smoldering attraction. 

But when two girls are tortured and killed in Báthory copycat style, the nearby village is shaken to the core. In terror, they wonder who will be next...

the only known portrait of the notorious countess...

Ever since I’ve heard about Erzsébet Báthory, I was fascinated by this sinister character who, even in times when cruelty was far from unusual, still managed to stand out. I did a lot of research on what was fact and what was legend about The Blood Countess, and decided to weave a romance which has as a starting point The Countess and a fictional castle belonging to her. This is what I have gathered from my research.

Erzsébet Báthory (1560-1614) is a known historical figure and was a Hungarian countess, also known as Elizabeth Báthory, The Blood Countess or Countess Dracula. She has been labeled the most prolific serial killer in history, being responsible for the torture and murder of hundreds of young girls. The exact number of her victims is unknown, but is estimated at six hundred and fifty. It is speculated that she kept a diary with the names of all her victims, but if such a document exists, it has never been made public.
She was born on the 7th of August 1560 into a very powerful family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary. When she was very young, she learned Latin, German and Greek. When she became a teenager, she already was one of the most educated women of her time. At fifteen she married Ferenc Nádasdy, the son of a baron, in what was a political arrangement within the circles of the aristocracy. Nádasdy's wedding gift to Báthory was his home, Csejte Castle, situated in the Little Carpathians.
In 1578, Nádasdy became the chief commander of several Hungarian troops, leading them to war against the Ottomans. Since then, Erzsébet’s husband was mostly away from home, leaving the management of business affairs and the estates to his wife. That role usually included responsibility for the Hungarian and Slovak people, even providing medical care. For the duration of the Long War, Erzsébet was charged with the defense of her husband's estates, which lay on the route to Vienna. The threat was significant, for the village of Csejte had previously been plundered by the Ottomans.
Báthory and Nádasdy didn’t have any children for the first ten years of their marriage. In 1585, Erzsébet gave birth to a daughter, Anna, who died some time after 1605. After that, she had another two daughters and two sons. There were rumors that she had her first daughter when she was only thirteen and became impregnated by a servant. It is said she was sent away to have the child. Her fiancé—for Nádasdy wasn’t yet her husband— had the boy castrated, then thrown to a pack of dogs.
Between 1602 and 1604, after rumors of Báthory's atrocities had spread throughout the kingdom, Lutheran minister István Magyari made complaints against her, both publicly and at the court in Vienna. The Hungarian authorities took some time to respond to Magyari's complaints. Finally, in 1610, King Mathias II assigned György Thurzó, the Palatine of Hungary, to investigate. Thurzó ordered two notaries to collect evidence in March 1610. In 1610 and 1611, the notaries collected testimonies from more than three hundred witnesses. The trial records include the testimonies of the four defendants—Báthory and three of her servants—as well as thirteen witnesses. Priests, noblemen and commoners were questioned. Witnesses included the castellan and other personnel of Sárvár castle.
According to all testimonies, Báthory's initial victims were the adolescent daughters of local peasants, many of whom were lured to Csejte by offers of well-paid work as maidservants in the castle. Later, she is said to have begun to kill daughters of the lesser gentry, who were sent to her gynaeceum by their parents to learn courtly etiquette. Abductions were said to have occurred as well. The atrocities described most consistently included severe beatings, burning or mutilation of hands, biting the flesh off the faces, arms and other body parts, freezing or starving to death. The collaborators in court also mentioned the use of needles. Some witnesses named relatives who died while at the gynaeceum. Others reported having seen traces of torture on dead bodies, some of which were buried in graveyards, and others in unmarked locations. Two witnesses actually saw The Countess torture and kill young servant girls. According to the testimony of the defendants, Erzsébet Báthory tortured and killed her victims not only at Csejte, but also on her other properties.
If Báthory hadn’t come from such an important family, she would have most certainly been tortured and burned alive. There was no doubt about her guilt, because at the time of her arrest several dead and dying girls were found in the castle. Because of her family’s influence, there was a closed-door trial, where over three hundred witnesses testified. The exact number of her victims remains unknown, but even though the official count based upon evidence of the tortured bodies is around eighty, in a second part of the trial, a newly discovered register was entered as evidence, suggesting there could have been as many as six hundred and fifty victims. Báthory was imprisoned in Čachtice Castle. She was kept bricked in a set of rooms, with only small slits left open for ventilation and the passing through of food. She remained there for four years, until her death. On August 24th 1614, a guard looked through one of the slots and observed Erzsébet Báthory lying dead face-down on the floor. Since there were several plates of food untouched, the actual date of death is unknown. She was buried in the church of Csejte, but due to the villagers' uproar over having ‘The Tigress of Csejte’ buried in their cemetery, her body was moved to her birth home at Ecsed, where it was interred at the Báthory family crypt.

Find Melinda's book HERE

A horribly fascinating woman, thanks Melinda!  those of you who are familiar with my FanFiction writing might recall a certain Erzebet Cerny at Durmstrang, and now you know why I chose her first name, as I rarely use names without a lot of thought! 


  1. Thank you so much for allowing me to talk about my new novel in a unique perspective on your lovely blog, Sarah! xx

    Melinda De Ross

  2. You're welcome! I'm looking forward to hosting you on the subject of the real Vlad Dracul in the future....

  3. Dear me, it's not often you find that a character out of history us every bit as dreadful as they've been painted. Maybe she was nice to her children?😊 Speaking of which, her husband sounds pretty dreadful too, with his treatment of an innocent baby.

  4. There are some awful people in history, but she is one of the worst! Treatment of a bastard was never good, so her husband, alas, was not totally unusual.... Vlad Dracul however had a bad press, he was a cruel tyrant but a fair cruel tyrant so look forward to Melinda's post on him sometime next year!