A rummage through random aspects of the past that interest me and may be of use or interest to other readers and writers of period fiction. Please note that the stories featured and my artwork for the covers are copyright; and have the courtesy to ask permission if you wish to use anything that is mine, and duly acknowledge it if you do.
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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
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...
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 gynaeceumby
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.
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.
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!