Wednesday, October 31, 2007

EDW: Countess Elizabeth Bathory

Since it's Hallowe'en, I had toyed with the idea of doing a fictitious vampire (Nosferatu perhaps?) a succubus or demon. Maybe even this enterprising fellow from Germany.

But real life affords horrors enough, some of them rather well-dressed too. Few people have taken vanity to the extremes that Countess Elizabeth Bathory (or Bathory Erzsébet, if you prefer) did. You will note that her outfit is quite the thing for a 17th century Hungarian aristocrat to wear, understanded but elegant and flattering to the figure – but what good is the outfit if you don't have the milky white complexion to match? Fortunately, the countess didn't have to spend a fortune on lotions and creams and make up and all the rest when she had a cheap and effective alternative: the blood of young girls.

There are so many legends, exaggerations and lurid accounts that it's difficult to say how many people she killed in her castle at Cachite, in what is now Slovakia. (I've been there, if you care about these sorts of details, well worth a visit). The higher estimates list more than six hundred victims. To slightly spoil my own story, too, the bit about bathing in blood is probably a legend (for what it's worth, that's what Wikipedia says).

But the basic facts are still sensational enough: dozens of girls were lured to the castle, often they were hired to work as maids, where Bathory and her associates tortured, murdered and mutilated them.

Now since she was a Hungarian aristocrat who was offing a load of Slovak peasant girls no one paid her too much attention at first. But she did take things a bit too far – people were starting to notice the lack of peasant girls in her part of the world and, a mistake this, she'd moved on to the daughters of the minor nobility. All of which eventually prompted the authorities to act. Following a trial, two of the countess's associates were burned alive, the dwarf (really, it's no wonder this is going to be a film) was beheaded and another women jailed for life.

As for the countess herself, her exulted position and family's status (they ruled large chunks of – inevitably – Transylvania) meant that it would be far too embarrassing to execute her, so the authorities fell back on the tried and tested method of putting an embarrassing problem out of sight. Bathory was imprisoned for a life in a sealed room of her castle and – a final, pleasingly macabre bit this – fed only on scraps that could be pushed under the door. At least she wasn't going to lose her figure.

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Blogger Glamourpuss said...

No chance of a suntan in there either.

Interesting choice, Bill.


5:07 pm  

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