If you have an irresistible urge to kill your fellow human beings, then being in a position of immense power affords plenty of opportunities.
And there’s a bonus – you’re more than likely going to get away with it. Well, at least for a while.
The other day, I met a Slovakian gentleman called Lukáš in the English town of Farnborough who had seen me on TV talking history and was very keen to share the story of a murderous noble woman from his country. Her name was the Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed. And she is believed to have tortured and killed up to 650 women between 1585 and 1609.
Yes – you didn’t misread that – six hundred and fifty women.
Most infamously, she was accused of bathing in the blood of victims who were virgins at the time of their death. The reason? To remain young of course! It may not be surprising therefore to discover that her uncle was the highest ranking official in Transylvania – the mountainous land where the fictional Dracula had his castle.
Eventually, her crimes were brought to the attention of the Holy Roman Emperor who ordered an investigation. Some three hundred witnesses all but fell over each other to spill the beans on the vampire princess. They had seen her abducting peasant girls and biting at their flesh or burning them with red hot tongs – before ending their lives.
Worse, from the point of view of the aristocracy, Elizabeth had even enticed girls of high birth to her castle. She had promised them lessons in etiquette. What they actually got was a lesson in why not to trust a countess with mad staring eyes!
The countess tried to plead her innocence but the evidence seemed pretty overwhelming. Although the death penalty was called for, it was decided that as an aristocratic woman, she would endure something more refined but equally terminal. Elizabeth was walled up in a small series of rooms with a big enough gap to pass her food.
It took four years for this royal serial killer to die.