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Elizabeth Bathory Portrait

The original portrait of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory from 1585 is lost (spirited away in the 1990s). However, this is a fairly contemporary copy of that original, probably painted in the late 16th century. She was 25 when the original portrait -- the only known image of her -- was painted. Author unknown.

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (Báthory Erzsébet in Hungarian, Alžbeta Bátoriová in Slovak; 7 August 1560 – 21 August 1614) was a countess from the renowned Báthory family of nobility in the Kingdom of Hungary. She has been labelled the most prolific female serial killer in history and is remembered as the "Blood Countess," though the precise number of victims is debated. The stories of her sadistic serial murders and brutality are verified by the testimony of more than 300 witnesses and survivors as well as physical evidence and the presence of horribly mutilated corpses, as well as dying and imprisoned girls found at the time of her arrest. Despite the evidence against her, Elizabeth herself was never put on trial because of her family's influence, but instead was placed under house arrest. The stories about her vampire-like tendencies (being accused of bathing in blood to rejuvenate her skin etc.) are much less verifiable than her sadistic behavior, like the verified deaths of servants and young girls, and these were generally recorded some years after her death. It quickly became part of national folklore.

After her husband Ferenc Nádasdy's death, she and four collaborators were accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls, with one witness attributing to them over 650 victims, though the number for which they were convicted was 80. Due to her rank, Elizabeth herself was neither tried nor convicted, but promptly imprisoned upon her arrest in December 1610 within Csejte Castle, Upper Hungary, now in Slovakia, where she remained immured in a set of rooms until her death four years later. The case led to legendary accounts of the Countess bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth, and subsequently also to comparisons with Vlad III the Impaler of Wallachia, on whom the fictional Count Dracula is partly based, and to modern nicknames of The Blood Countess and Countess Dracula. However, despite the overwhelming evidence against her, in recent years various revisionists have attempted to allege that Bathory was in fact innocent, proposing a variety of fanciful theories ranging from a Catholic conspiracy to the claim that the sadistic Bathory was in reality an abortion doctor or a naturalistic healer.