Thursday, February 21, 2013

Letters and Infamous Ladies in a Dandelion Garden

The Private Letters of Erzebet Báthory by Kimberly Craft


Infamous Lady by Kimberly Craft


Dandelions in the Garden by Charlie Courtland


All three of these books are about the woman who has gone down in history as Countess Dracula or The Blood Countess.  They join a host of modern books on the subject, including the fiction work for young adults which I have just finished writing.


The first is classed as a memoir, and like the second, is written by attorney. Kim Craft who has created a well done and informative website on Erzebet, the infamous lady herself, at  She has the blessing of alleged ancestor Denis Bathory, who has written an opera about Erzebet.  These are interesting sources indeed.


The third is a novel, and like many, seeks to explain the nature of Erzebet’s alleged crimes.


I will take them in the order shown here.


The Letters are a series of novels written by Erzebet, and in some cases, to her, by insiders to her Court, her family, a few friends, and some who later turned into her accusers.  What strikes me most is that without fail, this woman who is called one of the first female serial killers, vampire, werewolf, monster, witch, deviant, mad virago, is reoccupied with the business of running her more than 20 estates, down to how many containers of grain are needed to feed her various households.  She is all business, very Calvinist in how she resents herself, concerned with her children’s health, and polite and very formal, even when she is frightened or angry. She is an astute businesswoman and responsible.  She takes account for everything that goes on in her domain, shows awareness of Hapsburg politics, of debts owed her, of money she must shell out, and of the wars with the Turks and others who constantly threaten her wealth and well-being.


She complains of her eyes hurting, and headaches.  She worries for her husband, and worries that her servants will not have enough to eat.  She notes holidays and social occasions.


We know she traveled to all her estates throughout the year, and is distressed when war and bad letters testamentary don't let her enter one of them.  We read her last will and testament, written after warnings by a widowed cousin that the Catholic officials of her region will try to divest her, a lonely widow, of her wealth.  She leaves everything but her bridal gown to her children as a result.


Kraft accepts that Erzebet tortured and killed young girls, and that she may have orchestrated in horrific orgies encouraged by her servants and confidantes, but asserts that there was virtually no evidence against her and that in a modern court of law; she would never have been convicted.


In both books, Kraft stresses that Thurzo, her once admirer, friend, and protect, turned against her and had letters sentencing and convicting her signed, sealed, and delivered even before her arrest.


I agree Erzebet would have never have been convicted, but I question now if she ever committed any crime, at least by the standards of the brutal times in which she lived. Given the amount of time she had to devote to her family and to running her estates, and to her position as wife of a national hero, her age, and the ailments that plagued her, I find it hard to believe she had to time for any “recreation,” let alone violent sex orgies.


Kraft points out only a handful of her accusers could link her to the deaths occurring at her castle, and no one actually sees her do much of anything.  So much associated with her is mere myth, the baths in blood, the blood drinking, the 650 victims, the Iron Maiden, event he story of the man sewn in a horse, that one has to wonder what really took lace.


What a great story at that historical lace and time, a mere 80 years give or take from our own Salem Witch trials, to divest a widow of her estates and wealth, especially one as outspoken, humorless, and rigid as Erzebet.  Haughty and unlikable she may well have been.  Murderer?  I doubt it.


One interesting thing is that she is said to have written on the walls of her prison when she had no more parchment and writing implements.  Anne Rice wrote on her wall words that inspired her, and I’ve heard of others.  I tend to stick things onto my walls when I’m working.  Do all writers?


Dandelions is a good story, and a romance about Erzebet and Armara Drugeth, a lady in waiting and her closest confidante.  Much is speculation, but it is not grounded in Erzebet’s time.  They are all 21st c. individuals in 21st c. situations.  They talk like they are next door, and the scene with Armara in the café could be in a Starbuck’s.  The author needs to study the era and the language, and stick to the original names, Ferenc, not Francis, Erzebet, not Elizabeth.


I’m not sure the audience, but the interesting thing is that this book also written as a memoir, tries very much to humanize Erzebet as well.


Of note:  Erzebet is mentioned in the book Creepy Ass Dolls as a bisque doll.

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