Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monarch Profile: Prince Vlad III of Wallachia

He was known, especially among the Ottoman Turks, as Vlad the Impaler though today he known mostly by the name he used himself. His father, Prince Vlad II, joined the Order of the Dragon and so became known as Vlad Dracul or “the dragon”. Thus (as I’m sure everyone knows), his son Vlad III was known as the ‘son of the dragon’ or Vlad Dracula. No, he was not an undead, blood drinking phantom but he was the inspiration for the famous novel by Bram Stoker. Vlad Dracula was born in Transylvania in 1431. His father joined the Order of the Dragon just after Vlad Dracula was born and when the boy was only five years old he was also made a member. This order, though it may sound sinister today, was instituted by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund when he was King of Hungary as a chivalric order for the defense of Christianity from the Muslim Turks who were sweeping all before them in the Balkans. When his father brought him to the capital of Wallachia Vlad Dracula was given an impressive education by Greek scholars sent from Constantinople.

In 1442 Vlad II Dracul fell prey to infighting among the Hungarian nobles and made an alliance with the Ottomans to regain his throne. He sent two of his sons, including Dracula, to the Turks as hostages. While there he gained a reputation for being a headstrong and impertinent youth for which he was often beaten. His brother, Prince Radu, took the opposite approach and converted to Islam, went to the Ottoman court and eventually served the Sultan Mehmed II “the Conqueror”. Because of this young Dracula came to have an immense hatred of the Turks, his brother who had joined them and even his father for betraying their order by dealing with the Turks. Yet, during this time the Turks also taught him Turkish, Persian, the art of warfare and even gave him instruction in the Quran. His father was eventually restored with Turkish help but the famous Hungarian Janos Hunyadi, the “White Knight” led forces against him, overthrew him again, killing Vlad Dracul and his oldest son.

Not wanting Wallachia ruled by the Hungarians, Ottoman forces invaded and placed Vlad Dracula on the throne, thinking they would perhaps have some influence on him, but he was soon driven out by Hunyadi as well. Dracula went to Moldavia and later Hungary where his obvious hatred of the Turks and his knowledge of them as well as the local countryside induced Hunyadi to make him his advisor. The time for unity had definitely come as the new Sultan Mehmed II had succeeded in the long-sought Turkish goal of conquering Constantinople, finally bringing the last remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire to an end and the Ottomans were pushing north rapidly. Hunyadi led his troops toward Belgrade while Dracula organized his own army to march on his ancestral home of Wallachia. He restored himself to power and immediately set about restoring his homeland which had been plundered so many times by so many enemies in the preceding years. He built new villages, encouraged greater agriculture and established trade ties with neighboring countries. He also set about taking revenge on all those who had betrayed him, wiping out enemies and raising up his allies.

War was never very distant and after reestablishing his authority and prosperity to his people Vlad Dracula launched minor campaigns into Transylvania before joining King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary in a new war against the Ottoman Turks. Dracula led a brutal campaign across the Danube, devastating the enemy and by his own accounts massacring Turks, Bulgars and others, beheading them, burning them and so on with only the Christian population being spared. The Sultan tried to lure him into a trap to capture him but Dracula was tipped off and wiped out the force sent to bring him in. When Sultan Mehmed II raised an army for a punitive campaign against Dracula he was allegedly met, as he entered his territory, by a forest of his previous military force impaled on large spikes as a warning of the fate that awaited them. It was the supposed fondness Vlad Dracula had for impaling his enemies that led to infamous nickname among the Turks, “Vlad the Impaler”. Nonetheless, the Turks came on and in a daring series of attacks Dracula completely destroyed their army with his victory cheered across the Balkans and even as far as Rome and Genoa.

Dracula won many other victories, even against his own brother Radu who was fighting for the Sultan. However, many of the boyars he had punished before began to turn against him, even if it meant alliance with the Ottomans, and surrounded by enemies on all sides Dracula was worn down by attrition and forced to go to his overlord, the King of Hungary, for help. Rather than receiving assistance Matthias Corvinus charged him with treason and put him in prison. This was based on a forged letter showing an proposed alliance between Dracula and the Sultan; which most anyone would know was false given the ferocious level of hatred Dracula had shown toward the Turks. It is also telling that Dracula was not executed even though treason was obviously an offense usually punished by death. In time Dracula and Matthias Corvinus were reconciled and Dracula even married a cousin of the King and around 1465 she bore him two sons. In November of 1476 the Hungarian High Council agreed to the restoration of Prince Dracula and he led Hungarian forces into Wallachia to retake his homeland and his throne. However, only two months after reestablishing himself, with the war still raging, he was killed in battle with the Turks near Bucharest.

Prince Vlad Dracula obviously has one of the most dark and horrible reputations among royal ranks, today due in large part to the fictitious vampire that bore his name. However, it is difficult to know just how many of the lurid tales about his murders, executions and multitude of people he had impaled, are actually true. As can be seen, he was surrounded by enemies within his own family, the Hungarian nobility, certainly the Turks and many of these stories may have been fabricated or at least exaggerated to justify their own dishonorable actions. The only place where the name of Prince Dracula does not have negative connotations is in Romania where he is remembered fondly as a national hero; a hard man, even a brutal man to be sure, but who lived in brutal times and who fought against their domination at the hands of the invading Ottomans. Even his connection with the famous vampire is often accepted with good humor by modern Romanians who are glad to welcome vampire obsessed tourists to Transylvania to see the stomping grounds of the original, real Dracula.


  1. A very appropriate Halloween post, from the Mad Monarchist! And always a Favourite, for he shows the difference between real History and imagined History that is accepted.

    That said, though, and in defence of Stoker, Stokers Vampire novel was fiction, but the Vampire was not. While Vlad was likely not a Vampire, the Vampire in the Novel was Vlad. Its a Fictionalising of a real person, not an invention of a fictional person. In much the same way I can write a Noel about George Washington having been brought back from the Dead as a sort of Zombie creature with an indestructible body, but Washington would not be Fictional in my novel, jut the events of his Preternatural existence.

  2. I am going to miss reading your blog during the next several months. I have joined the Air Force and will be leaving for basic training tomorrow. I have been reading your blog for almost a year now and I just wanted to say keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks for reading and good luck in your training. My brother-in-law is a USAF veteran (currently in the Texas Air Guard) and I know a number of people in the Air Force. Congratulations, aim high and I hope you pick up reading again once you've graduated.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...