Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory: Second Editon by Kimberly Craft

Evidently, the only lie about this woman’s tortures of innocent little girls was the claim about bathing in their blood. That was made-up approximately 100 years after her death. Everything else about her tortures seems credible. Key points that I learned from this book:

  1. Approximately 50 years before Elizabeth Bathory was born, the Austrian Hungarian empire essentially passed a decree, called the Opus Tripartitum Juris Consuetudinarii Hungariae / Customary Law of the Kingdom of Hungary in Three Parts, that peasants had no legal rights at all for anything nobles did to them. They were considered property of nobles and this decree wasn’t removed until 1848 with Austria-Hungary being the last civilization in Europe to grant peasants any form of legal protections or rights. This was the background prior to Elizabeth Bathory’s own birth; the expectation of peasants being her personal slaves was inculcated in her throughout her entire life.
  2. Torture, beheadings, and burning at the stake were routine with public executions held in town squares. Elizabeth Bathory undoubtedly saw them as a young child.
  3. Patriarchy probably played a strong factor in turning her into a vicious monster. Wives and even young noble girls were taught to be thoroughly submissive to their parents and then their husbands. Husbands, nobility or not, beating and raping their wives was not considered a criminal offense of any kind and it was instead seen as proper conduct. Also, this last part is just my own speculation, but it is possible that her royal wedding itself traumatized her. She was 14-years old when she married her 19-year old husband and if you’ve heard of the “bedding ceremony” in Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire . . . well . . . the real life version is actually way fucking worse. The priest, select family guests, and various important people (depending on if the marriage is of noble families or not) get to watch the husband deflower and cum inside the bride. I am not even joking. That’s how the royal marriages during those times were supposed to end. They even have a portrait of how it was supposed to look in the book itself.
  4. Her husband, Ferenc Nadsday, learned torture techniques when going off to the many wars that he fought against Turkish invaders. He is on record to have done some grotesque tortures to prisoners of war too. None of this was considered a crime during his day, even armies of empires would loot, burn, rape, and torture peasantry in their own country when going to war in their home turf. There’s credible evidence to support that Ferenc taught her torture techniques, specifically one where 10 year old servant girls were forced to strip naked and pour honey all over their body so locusts could bite at their bodies. He then put a special sort of candle between their toes and lit it on fire to keep them upright as bugs ate at their flesh and their feet burned. He and Elizabeth also hired some foreign woman named Anna Darvolya who was well-educated in torture techniques and taught them everything she knew. Ferenc died a war hero during his time for faithfully serving the Austria-Hungarian empire.
  5. Elizabeth was known for her sadistic tendencies and even murdering little girls that she tortured (killing them was something her husband disapproved of, but once he died, the murders increased by a huge amount). However, her serial child murders only really began after what seems to be a mental breakdown and fall into psychosis from her husband passing away, to her brother passing away a year after, and finally to the King of Austria-Hungary falsely claiming he’d pay back the extensive loans that the Nadsday family gave the crown on good faith. They apparently never paid it back and had lied to the Nadsday family. Apparently, it was an enormous amount since the Nadsday family had been financing their wars for years. Also, when war broke out in her territory through no fault of her own, both the enemy army and the royal army pillaged, burned, and destroyed the towns outside her main castle and then occupied and destroyed parts of her castle. The belligerents included the very royal army sent to defend her castle. All of the stress seemed to cause massive psychosis for her remaining years and her sadistic, murderous tendencies went to an extreme degree.
  6. Elizabeth thought herself above the law . . . because she was treated that way all of her life. It is to the point that several other royal families helped her create serial child kidnapping rings across various parts of Austria-Hungary and some noble women even gave their own children knowingly to Elizabeth Bathory and her torture group who went on to torture, sexually assault, butcher, and then murder girls that were nearly always aged between 10 – 14 years of age. Once the peasants became too afraid because of the rumors, she opened up an “etiquette” school and ended-up doing the same sadistic shit to noble girls who were all butchered like the peasant girls. Not a single girl who went to her etiquette school made it out alive and that’s when the controversy and trials really started. And again, some noble women gave up their own daughters knowing this would happen. It was a very different time back then. Females, especially little girls of noble bearing, were just considered property to be used and disposed of and this behavior was inculcated among both noble and peasant women.

Overall, I’d rate it a 3 / 5. I think it is mostly well-done, but the author went into a bit too much speculation in some parts regarding Elizabeth Bathory’s husband’s reasons for torture. While I don’t doubt the patriarchal background or his propensity for torture which was given ample evidence, I’d have liked a bit more evidence for any assumption as to his drinking habits. The patriarchal culture, laws, and customs of their time more than amply give credible reasons for him physically harming Elizabeth Bathory during their time period. The author provides a wealth of evidence from Elizabeth Bathory’s own letters to explain the reasons for their arguments, but I couldn’t help but feel any attempt at narration, while I suppose useful for visualization and to more concretely explain to readers what life was like for people during the 1500s, nevertheless feels like a stretch too far into the realm of fanfiction. I definitely think this is a very good book that is worth reading on Bathory’s serial child murders and serial kidnappings. In a lot of ways, she was the most prominent female serial killer of the medieval world and her noble privileges is what helped to cause her to go as far as she did. Also, I don’t think the evidence given by her own torturers – which was done under torture itself as per the ancient legal system at the time – is credible despite how uniform the claims on Anna Darvolya were by the other torturers. Notwithstanding Darvolya having died sometime before the trial, torture itself doesn’t seem to lead to credible testimony. But, I understand there was nothing the author could do regarding this. However, I feel it is important to note, that what I do find incredibly interesting is that the servant Deseo who spoke on his own good name and honor and not under any prompting of torture had the most credible information and told more extensive and truthful details about Elizabeth Bathory’s torture sessions on innocent 10 – 14 year old servant girls than any other person who had been prompted under torture and that is how we can be sure that most of the details on the scope of Bathory’s horrifying serial murder and child kidnapping sprees are corroborated and factual. Not only was Deseo clearer in his explanations, but he was far more thorough in divulging information to the court and it was not under the prompting of torture or even the threat of torture.

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