In 1438 Vlad’s father, Vlad Dracul, betrayed the Order of the Dracul and formed an alliance with the Turks. He even allowed Sultan Murad II to keep his two sons, Vlad Dracula and his younger brother Radu, as a type of insurance that he would not go against the Turks. Keep in mind, at the time, Turks were taking over. In the winter of 1447 Vlad Dracul was assassinated. Vlad Dracula was granted his freedom by being offered a position in the Calvary. After his father’s death, almost ten years held captive, he took the position and escaped Turkey by being very cunning. Radu decided to stay behind, favoring the Turks.
On top of being held captive…his father was murdered, his brother choosing to stay behind, his older brother, Mircea, had his eyes gouged out and was buried alive. Resentment and revenge had become a part of Vlad Dracula. Dracula, still a teenager, realized the throne was occupied by the boyars (landowners). Dracula took back the throne and began plans to “clean up” the mess.
His first term as Prince of Wallachia only lasted two months. Hunyadi had regrouped and outnumbered Dracula’s forces. He left the throne and stayed with the family of the Moldavian prince, Bogdan. Bogdan was a member of Dracula’s mother’s family. He stayed in Moldavia for three years until Prince Bogdan was killed.
Now, even though Hunyadi is his family’s enemy, he sought refuge with him. Self-survival was his only reason for this. Dracula was placed in charge of a fortress at Sibiu, in Transylvania. While here, he heard Constantinople had fallen. This hit Christians hard and marked the end of the Holy Roman Empire. This city was constantly trying to keep the Pagans out. Christians were now being impaled, churches were burned and crosses were used as firewood.
1456…Dracula, at 25 years old, regained the throne of Wallachia again by killing Vandislas. He found out that Vandislas was the one who ordered the deaths of his family. Therefore he wanted to kill him himself. Legend has it that these two men met in a field, both wielding swords. Dracula won by beheading him. Vandislas’ men threw down their weapons and retreated. This is when Dracula made the Dracula crest, a winged dragon embracing the Cross (symbol of Catholicism). The crest went on everything…stamps, banners, coins, buildings, armor and his throne. The “Son of the Dragon” had finally earned his name!
He then did away with the old ways of a ruler and decided to announce that he should be looked upon as a warrior prince, ruling his land as if under martial law. He was the only decision maker! He wanted complete order due to the fact that the Turks were still a major threat. Now, at this time, the boyars had made their own laws, mandated prices, controlled merchandise, etc. Vlad put an end to all this. Anyone who disobeyed or retaliated would be punished severely. Dracula had already killed those responsible for his father’s death and had gathered a group of strong allies. Several of the boyars made complaints, verbally and in writing, about the new changes. Dracula called everyone together for a huge dinner so they could vent their concerns and complaints. After they all took turns he became suddenly enraged. He told them that their ungratefulness would not be tolerated. he ordered them to leave and to get out of his sight. When they reached the courtyard, Dracula gave a nod to his guards. The boyars were immediately speared and impaled outside the castle walls.
A short time later, on Easter Sunday, he ordered his soldiers to snatch up about 300 boyars and their families right out of the church pews. They were forced to work on the castle by lifting heavy stones, digging a moat, etc. until their clothes fell off from wear and tear. He then ordered them to work naked.
So sparked the “reign of terror”…1456-1462 Despite the bad reputation, a lot of his killings were against foreign and domestic enemies. The severity of the killings struck fear in everyone. He would impale his enemies, hang them, stretch them on the rack, burn them at the stake and boil them alive. A total of 100,000 victims suffered at his hands. According to many sources, Dracula would attach a horse to the victim’s legs and a stake was forced into their side. The stake was usually oiled and not very sharp. He didn’t want them dying to fast from shock.
Examples of his barbarism…
1. St. Bartholomew’s Day- He ordered 20,000 citizens arrested and impaled on the edge of the forest. Men, women and children were to die slowly in his presence. He even had a table set up so he could eat dinner while watching them die slowly. One of his knights was holding his nose trying not to throw up due to the smell. Dracula had him impaled high above the others so he “wouldn’t have to smell his company”.
2. The Paupers Dinner- Dracula extended his sympathy to the paupers. He invited them to a delicious meal and after dessert was served his staff slowly exited. His archers shot flaming arrows to ignite the treated curtains and linens. They banged against the bolted doors while they burned to death. Dracula’s remark…”The poor unloved creatures, it is best they leave this world now, on a full stomach.”
3. Crime-free city- A merchant, traveling through, had his money-box broken into. When Dracula heard of this he demanded the merchant be brought to him. He explained to the merchant that he runs a crime-free city and promised the thief would be caught. He urged the merchant to leave his cart outside his hotel unlocked over night. He promised the money would be replaced. Sure enough, morning came and all the money was replaced plus one extra florin. The merchant went to tell Vlad how thankful he was and offered to give back the extra florin. Dracula smiled and told him to keep it. He said he was a good man and had he not admitted the surplus he would join the impaled thief on his patio!
I wanna add that Dracula’s capital, Tirgoviste, was actually a very honest city with virtually zero crime! And to prove this, he placed a golden cup on display in the village square. The cup was NEVER stolen and untouched throughout his reign!
4. The “lazy” wife- To Dracula, women were only made for bedroom pleasure and the menial work that men shouldn’t have to do. One day, he spotted a planter wearing an apron that was too short. When asked why, the planter explained that his wife had become ill and was confided to bed. Vlad, very furious at this, ordered her out of bed and impaled outside her home. He said a woman’s duty to her husband came before her own health.
5. Turbans?- Emissaries were sent to Dracula to remind him that he was three years behind paying his annual tribute of 10,000 gold ducats to the Pope. Dracula interrupted the men to remind them that they had not “paid him” due respect of removing their turbans before him and his court. They calmly replied that it was their religious custom not to remove them in public. With a snap of his fingers, Dracula had their hats nailed to their skulls. This resulted in a battle. The Sultan received the bodies of the emissaries and decided to ambush Dracula when he agreed to a meeting. Dracula was no fool. His rifles shot them to pieces! Out-manned, he decided to make the road to Tirgoviste rough. He put trees on the paths, burned bridges, poisoned wells and burned villages that might serve as shelter for them.
Dracula then decided to go one step farther. To inflict tons of terror, he took 20,000 captives and impaled them up their backsides all around the walls. When the Turks arrived they were shocked! They stopped, stared, cried and vomited. They fled screaming that they couldn’t defeat the Devil!
Radu, his brother, was the only one who didn’t want to retreat. Radu made friends with some of the boyars who wanted Dracula gone. He promised them no harm would come to them, their original power would be regained and that Dracula would be gone. Vlad’s mistake…he never imagines his brother would “bare-face betray” him. The boyars, with some Turks, attacked the Palace. Radu sent warning that all within the walls would be impaled if he didn’t surrender. Dracula’s wife, very scared, committed suicide by jumping off the North Tower wall. Dracula retreated to the banks of the Arges, barely avoiding the Turks. He found shelter in an abandoned castle near Dobrins. He then headed to Brasov. The King, instead of welcoming him, arrested him. He would remain in custody for about ten years. Radu, upon Dracula’s arrest, took over the throne in Wallachia.
The King arranged a marriage between Vlad and Ilona Szilagy. She gave him two sons, one named Vlad. Back in Wallachia, Radu was a major disappointment. He was more for the Turks than his deal with the boyars.
July 1475- After 13 or so years, as a political prisoner, Matthias pardoned Dracula. He stormed his way, with an army, to Wallachia. Talk about patience and dedication!!! Radu lost the throne due to his death. As many believe…Radu was not killed. He died from syphilis. With 5,000 crusaders, Dracula began his way back to control. By November 1476 he was on the throne again, for the third time. Sadly, he would be dead within a month.
The boyars were still angry, remembering the murders of their loved ones. The Sultan still gunned for Dracula as well. With only 2,000 men, Dracula didn’t have an army anymore. Dracula was to help invade Bucharest, yet no reinforcements came to his aid as promised. No actual record shows how he died, but his mutilated body was found and identified. The way his body was identified was the medallions and the princely vestments her wore. Not much proof if ya ask me! He was then decapitated and then his head was nowhere to be found. It is said that his head was brought to Constantinople by the Turks and displayed above the city gates.
By the mid 1700’s the last of the Draculas was living in Transylvania. Corvinus ruled until 1490 and Stefan Bathory ruled for some time. Bathory’s great-niece, Elizabeth, is the one and only “Countess Dracula”!
No one is sure where Dracula is buried…
Now, I know the reputation of Vlad Dracula is one of brutality and tyranny. Romanians, however, still stand firm on the fact that he was the best ruler in history. I know his methods seem harsh and inhumane, but you gotta admit that creating a crime-free domain is somewhat astonishing. He used his title and power to make his people fear breaking the law. Take a look at today’s time. Thieves receive a slap on the wrist, rapists barely serve any time at all, murderers are let loose sometimes less than seven years into their original sentence. Under Vlad, none of these crimes would’ve been tolerated at all. I admit, that he looked at weakness, handicapped individuals and women in a bad light…but crime didn’t pay in his palace!