Prince Vlad III Dracula (1431-1476)
Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes, was born in November or December of 1431 in Transylvania, ruled by Hungary at the time. Dracula's father, the Wallachian prince Vlad II Dracul, was a member of a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon. This group of warriors was founded by Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, and their charter was to uphold Catholicism and defend the empire against the Muslim Ottoman Turks. Because of his membership with the Order of Dragons, Vlad II was known as Dracul, meaning dragon. Vlad's son would become known as Dracula or “son of the dragon”.
Dracula and Politics
Dracula became heavily involved with politics and warfare, first supporting his father in seizing the throne of Wallachia and later fighting with and against both the Turks and the Hungarians. Throughout these turbulent times, Dracula demonstrated his political and military prowess. He regained the throne of Wallachia and established his capital in Tirgoviste, which is now part of Romania. He was very popular for unifying Wallachia and resisting foreign influence, especially in resisting the Ottoman Turks.
Dracula a Vampire?
Dracula was known for his cruelty to his political and military enemies. Dracula enjoyed watching his enemies being tortured while he dined. It was rumored that he drank the blood of his victims. Although he boiled and skinned people alive, his favorite form of torture and execution was impalement. He enjoyed having many people impaled at once, arranging the penetrating stakes in intricate designs as the victims screamed in agonizing pain. As many as 100,000 people may have been killed by Dracula, giving rise to his reputation for bloodthirstiness.
In 1462 Dracula's army attacked the Turks in an attempt to drive them out of the Danube River valley region. Sultan Mehmet II, the conqueror of Constantinople, invaded Wallachia but was stunned when his troops entered Dracula's capital Tirgoviste. 20,000 Turkish prisoners were found impaled, dead or dying. This site was known as the “Forest of the Impaled”.
The End of Dracula
Eventually the Turks prevailed and Dracula lost his throne. Dracula went into exile in Hungary for nearly 12 years. In 1476 Dracula again attacked Wallachia in an effort to regain his throne. The Turks, determined to eliminate Dracula once and for all, invaded again. Dracula was killed while fighting near Bucharest in 1476. It is unknown if he was killed by Turks or accidentally killed by his own men. Dracula's head was chopped off, preserved in honey and sent as a gift to the Sultan. The Sultan exhibited Dracula's head in the main parapet of his palace in the new Ottoman capital of Constantinople.