But perhaps my description gives the impression that Elizabeth was just the kind of devoted wife who went along with her husband’s hobbies, the way someone might take up golf or video games to please their spouse. She was not. That would be incorrect. She was not just killing serving girls because her husband was hovering over her whispering “kill all the virgins!” like some approximation of a mad king in every medieval drama you’ve ever seen. In fact, it was only after her husband’s death that Elizabeth’s reign of terror began in earnest.
She moved from her estate to Vienna, where she was quickly taken up by society. She was very popular. She began having a lesbian affair with a woman named Anna Darvula. Periodically, scholars try to make a case for Elizabeth’s crimes being blown out of proportion because she was a lesbian and an independent woman. Scholars make cases like that. To which we say: no. You still don’t get to kill people. Mary Tyler Moore did not run around tying her co-workers to the desks and letting bugs eat them.
In any case, Anna was said to be a witch and was known for her sadistic tendencies. So, that sounds like another good match.
But all was not well! Elizabeth was concerned about her looks. At 44 she no longer considered herself to be as beautiful as she once was. So, legend has it, one day, as she was beating a servant girl to death with a comb, some of the blood splattered onto Elizabeth’s face. Elizabeth noted that it seemed to diminish her own signs of aging.
People think this is a vampire thing, but, good god, of course it did. She was essentially using liquid cheek stain. So, yes, she figured out that blush makes you look rosy and healthy.
However, by that point, Elizabeth had almost exhausted her supply of servant girls. None of the village girls would come to work for her because they’d heard rumors of the killing. So Elizabeth returned to her manor and offered to take in daughters of lesser nobility to teach them “social graces.” Like a charm school. Except there would be no teaching, only killing.
It is around this time that she is rumored to have begun bathing in the blood of virgins. It’s certainly the most famous rumor about Bathory, though there are few eye witness accounts of this. Do you want to know some of the atrocities people did witness?