Elizabeth Bathory grew up with cruelty
Elizabeth Bathory grew up in a society where violence and cruelty were commonplace. In 1514, the Hungarian peasants rose up against the nobility, under the leadership of Gyorgy Dozsa. The crown quashed the revolt, and Dozsa was executed horribly. Contemporary illustrations show gleeful aristocrats roasting the defeated rebel leader alive. The executioner seated Dozsa on an iron throne heated by glowing coals, while his assistants placed a red-hot crown on his head. As a result of the failed rebellion, in 1517, the peasants were reduced to the level of serfs. The only person they could now appeal to for justice was their Lord.
The Countess would have become accustomed to such scenes from a young age. As a child on the Bathory estates, she witnessed the execution of a man accused of selling his child to the Turks. The executioner sewed him alive into the belly of a horse. As Elizabeth watched, she reputedly giggled at the man’s head poking out of the horse’s belly for one last time, before disappearing completely into his grisly tomb.
These lessons in cruelty continued under the tutelage of Ferenc Nadasdy. Nadasdy saw his young bride infrequently, probably only at Christmas and Easter, and briefly, in the summer-which may explain why the couple did not have children for ten years. He was known for his ‘uncompromising’ treatment of the Turks. Nadasdy was reputed to dance with their dead bodies and play catch and football with their severed heads. He corresponded with his wife regularly and happily dispensed advice on the disciplining of servants.
When at home, he offered practical demonstrations. In one account, Ferenc had a recalcitrant serving girl taken outside, stripped and smeared in honey. Ferenc ordered the girl to stand in this manner for a day and night. It being summer, she was bitten and stung by bees and insects. When she dropped to the ground from exhaustion, Ferenc put pieces of oiled paper between her toes and lit them to ‘revive’ her. Elizabeth apparently watched and participated in this incident.