Elizabeth Báthory  

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Portrait of Elizabeth Báthory
Portrait of Elizabeth Báthory

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Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (Báthory Erzsébet in Hungarian, Alžbeta Bátoriová in Slovak; 7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614) was a countess from the renowned Báthory family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary. She has been labeled the most prolific female serial killer in history, although the number of murders is debated, and is remembered as the "Blood Countess."

After her husband Ferenc Nádasdy's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls, with one witness attributing to them over 650 victims, though the number for which they were convicted was 80.

Elizabeth herself was neither tried, nor convicted. In 1610, she was imprisoned in the Csejte Castle, now in Slovakia and known as Čachtice, where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.

In recent years, a case has been made that the accusations arose from a conspiracy against her by the Palatine of Hungary, Count György Thurzó, and her own son-in-law, Miklós Zrínyi, grandson of the hero of the Siege of Szigetvár.

As is noted in Murderesses in German Writing, 1720-1860: Heroines of Horror:

The complete absence of verifiable evidence for either the bloodbaths or the 650 fatalities [of Elizabeth Báthory]has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm with which later authors have seized upon these features. Both already appear as indisputable facts in the earliest sources available in Germany, László Turóczi's Tragica Historia (1729) and Matthias Bel's The Castle and Town of Csejte (Burg und Stadt Csejte, 1742).

Later writings about the case have led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom the fictional Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula.

The Báthory case has inspired many stories, featuring the Countess bathing in the blood of her victims in order to retain her youth. This inspired nicknames like the Bloody Countess of doom and death.

Folklore and popular culture

Elizabeth Báthory in popular culture

The case of Elizabeth Báthory inspired numerous stories during the 18th and 19th centuries. The most common motif of these works was that of the countess bathing in her victims' blood to retain beauty or youth.

This legend appeared in print for the first time in 1729, in the Jesuit scholar László Turóczi’s Tragica Historia, the first written account of the Báthory case.

At the beginning of the 19th century, this certainty was questioned, and sadistic pleasure was considered a far more plausible motive for Elizabeth Báthory's crimes. In 1817, the witness accounts (which had surfaced in 1765) were published for the first time, which included no references to bloodbaths. This myth is also speculated to persist because of Báthory's connection to Transylvania and vampire lore.

The legend nonetheless persisted in the popular imagination. Some versions of the story were told with the purpose of denouncing female vanity, while other versions aimed to entertain or thrill their audience. The ethnic divisions in Eastern Europe and financial incentives for tourism contribute to the problems with historical accuracy in understanding Elizabeth Báthory. During the 20th and 21st centuries, Elizabeth Báthory has continued to appear as a character in music, film, plays, books, games and toys and to serve as an inspiration for similar characters.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Elizabeth Báthory" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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