Reviewed by Elaine Lamkin
Written by Kimberly L. Craft
Self-published via CreateSpace
Erszébet Báthory. The Infamous Lady. The Tigress of Csejthe. Countess Dracula. The Blood Countess. Many names for just one woman who may or may not be the world’s worst serial killer. Many books would have readers believe that Erszebet (or Elizabeth) was responsible for the murders of over 650 young girls. A few other books admit that torture and murder DID occur but question how much culpability the Countess had in them. And then there is the theory that Elizabeth was “set up” by King Matthias II of Hungary so the crown would not have to repay the enormous debt owed to Elizabeth from when her husband, Ferenc Nádasdy, loaned money to the King.
So many books. So many theories. And now, a new book has been published which makes use of documents previously unavailable to the English-speaking world. Trial transcripts, letters and miscellaneous documents which have only recently been translated into English have been gathered together along with Elizabeth’s biography by attorney and legal historian, Kimberly Craft. Infamous Lady is that book and should definitely be on the shelves of any and all Báthory fans, scholars, etc. The book also contains several portraits never before seen: a woodcutting of Ferenc Nádasdy, paintings of Elizabeth’s in-laws, Tamás Nádasdy and Orsolya Kanizsai Nádasdy, Gábor Báthory, Elizabeth’s cousin and photographs of the Báthory family church and mausoleum in Nyírbátor, Hungary as well as the ruins of the castle where most of the murders were said to have occurred, Cachtice (“Chak-teets-say”), the modern name of the castle or Csejthe (“Chay-tay”), the original Hungarian name of the castle. I would have loved to have seen a family tree as the Báthorys were a family given to a bit of in-breeding but unfortunately, there is nothing of the sort in this edition of the book (perhaps in a later edition).
One of the VERY interesting tidbits I found while reading Infamous Lady was that in her Last Will and Testament, written on September 3, 1610 shortly before she was arrested and subsequently imprisoned at Csejthe Castle, was that she planned to wear her “bridal gown” until her death. Now Erszébet was married at the age of 15 and in 1610 she was 50 years old – guess she either retained her figure after all of that time plus bearing 5 children or she had a REALLY good corset. Just an interesting factoid I was completely unaware of. And kind of creepy too. Rather Miss Havisham-ish.
Another interesting aside was the fact that Erszébet’s grave has, to date, never been found. She was originally buried on November 25, 1614 (a GOOD three months after she died!!??) and was purportedly buried either in the Csejthe church crypt or the cemetery at Csejthe but the residents of the town did not want the Infamous Lady buried on or under holy ground and amongst their deceased family members so, in 1617, her remains were removed and reburied in the Báthory crypt in Nyírbátor. BUT, when archaeologists opened the Csejthe crypt in 1938, they found no sign of Erszébet’s resting place. And in 1995, when the Báthory family crypt at Nyírbátor was opened, Erszébet was not there either. I suggest that archaeologists try the Báthory crypt in Nagyecsed, where Erszébet was born – seems the most likely place to me as it is a small town. Not many visitors to disturb Erszébet’s rest. Some “experts” claim she is buried in the Lamosz Cemetery in Budapest but there is no evidence that this happened nor that the place even exists.
Báthory-philes should throughly enjoy this addition to their library as author Kimberly Craft has obviously done her homework, translating many documents from their original languages into English. And she includes an exhaustive bibliography so readers can check out other books on the Countess that they might not already know about or have (I personally recommend Tony Thorne’s “Countess Dracula: The Life and Times of the Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory” published in 1997 and now out of print but still available through third-party dealers). There is also an interesting website for the book: http://www.infamouslady.com/ where readers can join the organization, Community of Báthory Scholars and Enthusiasts (which also has a Facebook page), and the book IS available at Amazon.
What are you waiting for??
4 out of 5
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