The Most Powerful Woman That Ever Lived
She is the most powerful woman that ever lived. Yet, she is a pariah to most who know of her today, and that's not very many people. When she was alive, this seventeenth century woman represented the hopes and aspirations of countless millions. Most then, as now, were too ignorant to know it. Very few then, as now, really knew history. Even then, her ancestry was one of the oldest in the world. Arguably, she was, and remains history's most powerful woman in the world, eclipsing the power of kings, queens, emperors, and popes. She is Elizabeth Bathory.
Historical Information and Excerpt
Chrysalis II: Carpathian Liberty, Chapter 5 - Bathory Chrysalis: The Real Elizabeth Bathory
Her face appeared to have grown paler, and it seemed as if there were a mocking insanity flaring up almost imperceptibly on her lips and in the azure of her eyes there lurked the insanity of grief. She was silent, and she waited for what her father would say. And he spoke slowly, finding words almost with difficulty, "Dearest, what did I hear? I did not expect this of you. Why did you do it?" The Beauty bowed her head and said softly and sadly, "Father, sooner or later all this will come to pass anyway."
So begins my manuscript about Elizabeth Bathory - with Bryusov's poem, The Poison Garden. It's appropriate.
Hilary Mantel, the historical novelist correctly argues that all human beings become "the subject of stories the moment that we are deceased," that the process of "fictionalisation is instant, it's natural and is inevitable." More significantly, Hilary Mantel also informs us that there were two polar movements in the nineteenth century: one to establish history as a science (real history); another to establish it as a fantasy, a fairy tale (romanticised history). It's a profoundly true statement and observation. History did not become an academic subject until the eighteenth century. The disciplined science of historiology which we know came into existence three centuries later in the twentieth century. The genesis of both the Elizabeth Bathory legend and revisionist Magyar nationalist history originate in the eighteenth-century, and entrenched as "truth" in the nineteenth century as the official and established narrative of Hungary.
There are two kinds of histories. The first kind of history is romanticised history. These are stories of noble deeds, knights in shining armour, beautiful ladies in waiting, handsome princes and beautiful princesses, heroes who always win, villains who always lose, generals, kings, and queens in which even war itself is moral, ethical, and just. Romantic histories are simplistic, a binary duality, such as good versus evil, them and us. Myths are made believable with real people, events, places, and dates. Such history invariably has an agenda to explain otherwise complex subjects, so they are easily consumable and with a purpose. Myths adjudicate ethics and morality. At the root of such history is the deliberate obfuscation of reality, supplanting it with more straightforward to understand fantasy, the fairy tale. Such history is always politically, ethically, and morally correct. Most people, understandably, prefer the fairy tale.
History like this is the very basis of propaganda and morality in which the main prize is someone's ownership of somebody else's mind, like a parent who reads these sort of stories to a four-year-old at bedtime to teach valuable lessons. Unfortunately, there are no profound lessons to be learned here for adults, just the basics, that is to say, nothing which truly matters in the grander scheme of things. Romanticised history is always in peril of becoming like pre-1930s' Hollywood movies of the silent movie era. Mute. Only the subtitles inform the audience of what is supposedly being said and happening on the silver screen. Only the deaf person in the audience will know if the subtitles are nonsense. It's because this person has the skill to lip read. The other 99% of the "normal" audience believes whatever they read literally. They don't have a choice. That's how propaganda works.
The second kind of history is real history which tells of the same events, the same characters, but without romanticism, and without ethical or moral adjudication, just the raw, flawed, real human side of history. It's what journalism once was but no longer seems to be. In this history, people come in all shapes, sizes and imperfections. In this history, the prince, princess or the knight in rusty armour, has blemishes, bad teeth, and is not always moral, ethical, or just. In this history, there are no heroes, and no villains, only dead people. It has no clear-cut right or wrong but exposes human nature for what it is - complex. It has no political correctness attached to it whatsoever, and thus, not for everyone. This sort of history cannot fit into a children's book. It's why such history, like Chrysalis, is not a short read, and why nobody will ever make a movie about it. One cannot fit it into two hours of entertainment. Real history also requires self-discipline, which is why it's not easily consumable. The reader needs to think for one's self to make up his or her mind concerning the validity of the subject matter. Often, this sort of history is sometimes heresy depending upon the subjective social determinant.
The problem of history is that neither the romantic or real version can be proven to be true or false. In the end, history is merely somebody's opinion. Ultimately, it's a question of the reader's knowledge and the reader's skill to think for one's self to discern probable fact from probable fiction. It's a matter of faith. Because faith is such a significant component of history, it has been the mechanism by which the alteration of it can yield a remarkable change in social beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. Romanticism, while admittedly more fun and entertaining than reality, unfortunately, undermines the cultural fabric. Why history is important is explained by a wise man who said:
If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it's part of a tree.
It's the naked truth of universal ignorance which has absolutely nothing to do with status, culture, education, wealth, or power. However, of course, one cannot tell this to anyone without bruising the ego. The simple fact is that nobody can ever know all history, and an extremely few know all real history if anyone. Most will not know much at all because as another wise man explains:
No one lives off the truth, and that's why no one cares about the truth. The truth we make for ourselves is just the sum of what is in someone's interest, balanced by the powers they hold.
As for real history, should one care to validate history's absolute truths, which "nobody cares about," one invariably concludes what the third wise man said:
Man notes all the trivia of his little world, but the great things either escape him entirely or are lost in illusion. The illusion of history is even greater than the illusion that the sun rises and sets. History? It's the crucifixion of man between illusions, between deceptive possibilities and immoderate goals.
The 1% Myth
This brings me to the so-called 1%. No. These are not history's brutal dictators and their regimes. They do not belong in this exclusive club. They are merely thugs who originate within the 99%. They seize opportunities to get their way and rule by fear for a short while - a few years, decades at most. These regimes all end in total and guaranteed failure. They are a testament to idiocrasy. Today's oligarch billionaires, wherever they may be, or history's oligarchs, who did, and still do, indeed, occupy the 1% of social hierarchy. But in reality, these individuals occupy the 1% of the 1% social strata. They have always been around, and as long as there's capitalism, always will be. These are the people that the rest of us - the huddled 99% - think that they run things. In reality, the 0.01% don't matter in the grand scheme of things apart from harsh reality that the rest of us - the 99% - depend on them for our livelihood, our jobs. As for the glittering wealth of the 0.01%, well, that simply changes hands over time.
The actual 1% who matter are the ones we should be in awe of, perhaps even be worried about. They are the 99% of the 1%. These are people we rarely know of. They are the scholars and advisors to the established oligarchy. And no, it has nothing to do with their wealth. These are the people who, through the power and status of their employers, wield real political power. The can do this because they possess knowledge and wisdom. In a nutshell, they know history! And no, this is not the same history taught in public schools. Consequently, these are the people who "have the king's, queen's, emperor's, empress', president's, prime minister's ear!" Their job is to make their employers happy - and they do! They, for better or for worse, forge long-lasting empires, sometimes at society's expense, sometimes lasting centuries while their employers get the credit as great leaders. Other employees - historians - make sure it is so. This collective 1% will never relinquish their power, nor share their formula for success because this would lead to their downfall which sometimes, nevertheless, happens. They achieve this by doing their best to keep the rest of society's 99% - us - as ignorant as a stump of wood regarding things which matter - wisdom - which always leads to one thing - liberty! It was true in medieval times. This was what the Reformation was about (sort of). I say "sort of" because the Reformation had everything to do with liberty of Christian worship, and nothing to do with actual liberty for humanity. It is what every revolution that ever was or will be, about. It's because revolutions do not have people unbeholden to anyone within their leadership ranks.
Sometimes, things go tragically wrong - always thanks to, dare I say it - because of the Biblical Seven Deadly Sins. But what happens when someone emerges who is an oligarch, and has brains to go with their financial wealth? Well, they are beholden to nobody to start with. With their knowledge and wisdom, they discern fundamental rights from wrongs. They draw logical, philosophical conclusions which invariably set them about the task to change the world for the better. And no. Martin Luther was not one of these people.
Introducing Elizabeth Bathory
Once in a while, a true miracle happens, a kind of "imperial self-extinction" event. It's about as rare as a visible supernova, as in the birth of Christianity which coincided with a supernova too. Supernovae are coincidental (are they really?) but during the lifetime of an empire one powerful member of the imperial elite - a member of the 1% of the 1%, or 0.01% - emerges who chooses to destroy totalitarian cruelty for the few - hatred, apocalypse, resurrection, empire, genocide, and greed - the for the benefit of the many. Every imperial history has at least one of these heretic traitors in its establishment. One has to dig deep into historical records to identify them, however, but rest assured, they did exist. They live among us even today! Their Humanity and Humility, however, is always perceived as weakness. When elites push people too far, people push back and bring the entire establishment down. It's a revolution. It's hardly a solution, and it always fails. Then the next opportunist steps up to the plate, and, thanks to ignorance bequeathed by the previous regime, faces no opposition from the people and can, therefore, restart the whole cyclical process yet again with the same catastrophic result. But what do they care? They have no empathy to give a damn!
Despite being one of the most important of all "Hungarians," all of Elizabeth I Bathory-Nadasdy's known personal possessions which remains in this world, and which is known to have belonged to her are one of the rarest objects on the planet. That which collectively survives in all the museums on the planet can easily fit into one 67" x 59" x 10" (170cm x 150cm x 25cm) crate to contain precisely one portrait (the portrait shown below), and a shoebox containing a few handwritten letters. Moreover, in total, almost seven centuries of personal possessions of her ancestors of that noble house Bathory can easily fit into a large suitcase - if that. Immovable properties, lands still exist of course, and thus, it is still possible to walk in their footsteps - if one knows where to look. Their buildings, castles and the like, peppered throughout present-day Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia are ruins, a heap of stones, and most are indistinguishable from the rocky outcrops, or the fallow lands which obscure their locations. If one listens, one can hear Bathory echoes in the breeze. Some have disappeared so completely, that even archaeologists have trouble locating them, even with accurate historical texts which preserve their exact locations. Despite their disappearance from the annals of official histories, the Bathory name peppers thousands of historical books by their real or aberacht names.
Let no charlatan peddling history fool you. Real, truthful, factual, hard evidence concerning Countess Elizabeth Bathory is extremely rare. Most knowledge of this historical personage, is at best, an educated opinion! When she was condemned as a heretic along with her entire family dynasty by the Habsburgs, historians, by law, avoided writing about her and her family for fear of losing their lives! Their books, letters, and personal possessions no longer exist. The few artefacts which remain are silent on Bathory history. Historians, generally beholden to someone's patronage, wrote what they were told to write, and they all suckled information from permissible state-directed histories - which excluded the Bathorys. Even today, the name "Bathory" evokes academic disdain
What made Elizabeth Bathory who she was as a person? What made her practically unique in her society and time in history? She was not a stereotypical sixteenth-seventeenth century noblewoman. By her unique, and deliberate intellectual education, publicly, she played the expected feminine role expected of her at the imperial Habsburg and personal court. Inwardly, her intellectual wisdom surpassed most of her male and female peers. She was, in fact, extraordinary, one of only three women in a patriarchal world who truly possessed real, awesome power. Elizabeth received her name in honour of two great queens of her time - Elizabeth I Tudor of England and Isabella Jagiellon of Hungary. These three women knew history. They possessed wisdom. They also had the socio-economic-political means by which to change the world. And they did. Uncharacteristically for any age, including our own, these women thought for themselves. Men who did not enjoy these women's confidence felt intimidated, uneasy, clumsy, inferior, inadequate in their company. Women were in envious, spiteful, gullible, and in gossipy awe. Suffice it to say, even though men might have wished for it, winning these women's romantic hearts was next to impossible for any man, certainly not in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. These women's kept the company of intellectuals, people whom they could engage in stimulating conversation, typically older, wise, scholarly men. Sadly, this made these women the loneliest people on Earth in the flower of their Beauty and youth. All of humanity is born ignorant. It's why these women were frequent targets of often salacious gossip by both sexes, always behind their back. Nobody would have dared to challenge any of these women directly, and when they did, they always did so anonymously.
Countess Elizabeth Bathory-Nadasdy was an Ungarian, not a Hungarian, and probably the most powerful woman in the world at the time, perhaps ever. She was powerful enough to achieve what nobody except for Napoleon Bonaparte achieved. She defeated the Austrian-German Habsburg Holy Roman Empire in 1606 two centuries before Napoleon's Grande Armée victory dissolved the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 for the same reasons. Knowing why, and what she might have known of her people's history, what drove her in her duty to family and country was the objective of the first two Chrysalis books. Most history books are silent on early medieval Slavs in Ungaria as though they never existed. Most history books are also silent on Elizabeth Bathory's and her family's histories. Hopefully, Chrysalis illuminated some of these. Perhaps now its clearer as to why the Elizabeth people know is a myth and why history is not what it seems. Elizabeth's real history is possible to write now, but this is a subject of another book.
It's been impossible to really know what Elizabeth Bathory looked like in life. The only two portraits known to exist of her likeness come with their own sets of controversy. No longer! This painting is a forgotten sixteenth century original portrait of the Countess painted when she was only 20 years old. It has languished in obscurity in terms of the the portrait's subject for more than 400 years, though not without appreciation of its sheer aesthetic beauty by its several past private owners. Her accomplishments and most particularly the controversy surrounding her life make this painting an extraordinary and extremely rare object to even exist, as you can appreciate. Behind this painting lies a sinister history. It's a story of intrigues and betrayals. It has never been written about in any history books, that is, not until now.