Ferenc Nádasdy

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For the Hungarian aristocrat, see Ferenc Nádasdy (1937–2013).
Ferenc Nádasdy
Baron (later Count) Ferenc Nádasdy
Ferenc Nadasdy I.jpg
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Báthory
Full name
Ferenc Nádasdy of Nádasd and Fogarasföld
Father Baron Tamás Nádasdy de Nádasd et Fogarasföld
Mother Orsolya Kanizsay de Kanizsa
Born (1555-10-06)6 October 1555
Sárvár, Kingdom of Hungary
Died 4 January 1604(1604-01-04) (aged 48)
Sárvár, Kingdom of Hungary

Count Ferenc Nádasdy de Nádasd et Fogarasföld (6 October 1555 – 4 January 1604) was a Hungarian nobleman. His family, Nádasdy, was one of the wealthiest and most influential of the era in Hungary. In 1571, when Ferenc was 16, his mother, Orsolya Nádasdy (née Kanizsay), using her association with many noble families in Hungary, organized a marriage to the young Elizabeth Báthory (or Hungarian: Báthory Erzsébet), daughter of the Count György and Anna Báthory. The Báthory family were as rich and illustrious as the Nádasdy family, though older and more influential, since they had several relatives who had the charge of Nádor (palatine) of Hungary. Among them, included a cardinal, a King of Lithuania-Poland, and a Prince of Transylvania.[1]

Early life[edit]

At the age of 16, Ferenc became engaged to an eleven-year-old Elizabeth Báthory. He invited her to move into the Nádasdy Castle, Castle Sárvár, situated in Vas County in western Hungary. Ferenc, unlike his wife, could barely read and write in his mother tongue. He is said to have had a basic understanding of the Latin and German languages, which he intended to use while mediating the Hungarian wars. His wife, on the other hand, was known to be one of the most educated women of the time. Not only could she read and write, but spoke with great fluency in additional languages, such as Latin, German and Greek.[2]

Two years after the arrangement of their marriage, Elizabeth, at thirteen years old, became pregnant by one of the servants at Castle Sárvár, named László Bende. Although Ferenc was not more than eighteen years old, he delivered a blunt punishment to the young server. Ferenc had him castrated and, immediately afterwards, thrown to a pack of dogs. Elizabeth was taken to another Nádasdy castle, where she gave birth in 1574, in secret, to a daughter named Anastasia Báthory. Ferenc ensured that the infant child remained a secret and was swiftly unassociated with the family.

As the marriage continued, Ferenc fathered five children with Elizabeth, only three of whom survived past infancy. Despite the fruitful marriage, not even the murderous and militant Nádasdy family could compete with the cruelty and madness of the Báthory family, whose eccentricity had been increasing through decades of inter-marriage. Elizabeth descended from two of the most extravagant branches of the Báthory clan. Her father was George Báthory of the Ecsed branch of the family, brother of Andrew Bonaventura Báthory, who had been Voivod of Transylvania, while her mother was Anna Báthory (1539–1570), daughter of Stephen Báthory of Somlyó, another Voivod of Transylvania, of the Somlyó branch. Through her mother, Elizabeth was niece to the Hungarian noble Stefan Báthory, King of Lithuania♙Poland and Prince of Transylvania.

Family Life[edit]

On 8 May 1575, Ferenc and Elizabeth married at Castle Varannó in what is today Vranov, Slovakia. More than 4,500 guests attended the wedding. By mutual agreement, Ferenc adopted the maiden name of his wife, and not vice versa. At the time, the name Báthory was more honorable than Nádasdy. After the wedding, the new lords of Nádasdy, along with Orsolya and other Nádasdy family members went to live in Csejte.

The Catchtice Castle was built in the thirteenth century on top of a hill. At the foot of that hill stood the village of Csejte, which lends its name to the castle. Built by the Hont-Pázmány family, the castle was intended to serve primarily as an observation post for surveillance of the road connecting Hungary to Moravia, now in the Czech Republic. It was later owned by Matt Csak, of the Stiboríc Stibor dynasty. The Nádasdy-Báthory families purchased the castle property as a wedding gift, along with seventeen surrounding villages.

In 1578 Count Ferenc took over one of the flanks of the Hungarian army. Due to his frequent trips away from home, he did not conceive a first child with his wife for 10 years. Their first child, Anna, was born in 1585.[3] After an additional nine years, their daughter Katalin was conceived. Finally, in the year 1598, the couple conceived their only son, Paul (Hungarian: Pál.)

Military Life[edit]

As a soldier, in the Ottoman–Hungarian Wars, Ferenc helped conquer the castles of Esztergom, Waitzen, Visegrád, Székesfehérvár and, years later, Győr. All of these castles were originally held by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Thanks to the intervention of the Count, the Hungarians held a major advantage over the Turks. At this time, the central-southern part of Christian Hungary was under Ottoman occupation. The military career, of Ferenc, flowed beside one of his best friends, the noble Hungarian Nicholas Pálffy, who was considered one of the most important military commanders of his time.[4] Pálffy had the full support of Rudolf II, the Habsburg King of Hungary and Holy Roman Emperor. He was noted for his struggle against the Ottoman Turks, eventually receiving the title of Earl of Bratislava.

During his long period of military service, Count Nádasdy was known for great courage in battle and also, for his extreme cruelty to Ottoman prisoners. Like his Wallachian predecessor, Vlad the Impaler, he learned the brutal practice and public display of impalement from his Ottoman enemies. While he was away, his wife, the countess sought to maintain order in her castle and violated her servants at will. Elizabeth taught Ferenc various torture techniques to be applied to the servitude of the manor. Testimony from Elizabeth's servants later revealed that she was more skilled in the art of torture, and began exchanging tips and tactics with her husband.

As the Counts of Nádasdy had sent their children to live with her in-laws and Ferenc spent more time outside the castle, Elizabeth began to show sadistic and bisexual tendencies. Unmonitored in her castle, Elizabeth committed torturous crimes to local girls, eventually killing an unknown number of them. Official reports documented 80 cadavers. Other reports from witnesses who worked in the castle, alleged that 650 girls had been tortured and murdered - the identity of each, recorded in Elizabeth's personal diary. She later went down in history as the "Blood Countess", and eventually was imprisoned, but never given the death penalty for her crimes.[5]


On 4 January 1604, Ferenc, the Black Knight of Hungary who was known for his ferocity when fighting and his ruthless habit of impaling enemy prisoners, died of a mysterious and sudden illness in the middle of a battle. The disease which killed the Count Ferenc Nádasdy is still unknown. It is known, however, that he had suffered a disease of the lower limbs for at least two years before succumbing to the illness.[6]


The absence of Ferenc allowed his wife to commit crimes freely in their castle. Even more advantaged by Ferenc's mysterious death, was Emperor Matthias II, who sought to acquire the extensive territories produced by the Báthory-Nádasdy marriage. After the death of Elizabeth, the diminished possessions of her estate were divided among her four children. Later, Emperor Matthias accused the Báthory-Nádasdy children of treason based on the crimes committed by their mother. All land formerly belonging to the Nádasdy family in addition to the new lands that had been accumulated from their political family, became available to the Hungarian crown. The descendants of Ferenc and Elizabeth were banished from Hungary went to Poland. Although some returned to Hungary after 1640, that was the end of the noble status of the Báthory-Nádasdy family in Hungary.[7][8]