A HUGE thank you to everyone for your support. As I spend this holiday break hunched over my computer typing out the story of Erzsebet, I thought I’d share with you all a piece of history. On this day 407 years ago.....
December 30th, 1610
Rumors of Erzsebet’s violence and torture spread quickly through the Kingdom of Hungary starting in 1602, after a Lutheran Minister lodged complaints against her publicly, as well as in the Vienna courts. Unsurprisingly, Hungarian authorities were in no rush to condemn Erzsebet’s behavior as it was typical for the Hungarian ruling class to treat their servants and subjects as objects that they owned, objects to be controlled, used, and discarded as the nobles saw fit. It was not uncommon for extremely harsh punishments or torturous executions to take place all across Hungary at the time.
Erzsebet was a powerful noble, with powerful political influence and a strong family name, and the accusations of torture and murder fell into what was generally acceptable behavior for her social standing. The problem was that she was a woman with no husband and she was essentially untouchable through standard political channels.
In 1610, eight years after the complaints had started, King Matthias II ordered the Palatine of Hungary, Gyorgy Thurzo, to fully investigate the disturbing allegations. Thurzo collected evidence and testimonies with the assistance of two notaries.
On December 30th, 1610 Thurzo and his men trudged in the dark and freezing cold up the steep rocky path that lead to Cachtice Castle and arrested Countess Erzsebet Bathory. According to Thurzo, he discovered Bathory in the act of torture with two women dead or dying nearby. There is almost no evidence to support this claim. He had announced to her guests and villagers that she had been caught “red handed”, however based on court transcripts, it appeared that the bodies hidden throughout the castle grounds were not discovered until after the arrest was made. It’s more than likely that Thurzo’s eagerness to punish Erzsebet inspired him to weave a tale of finding Erzsebet soaked with the blood of her victims while they died at her feet.
Ultimately this arrest led to further investigations, arrests, and the punishments of her “accomplices” in the castle, Katarina Benicka among them.
It’s been 407 years since that fateful night, and still Erzsebet’s arrest and legacy remain bathed in mystery and conflicting stories. Transcripts from her trial are subjective at best and coerced or falsified at worst. One also can not overlook the fact that in a world were brutality was praised Erzsebet was cast as a devil to be eliminated. Erzsebet remains a mystery to us in the modern world, only a few tangible facts to cling to while our imaginations fill in the shadowy gaps…