Who is VLAD TEPES ?
The Biography of Vlad III Dracula the Impaler (1431-1476)
Little is known about the early years of Dracula's life. It is known he had an elder brother, Mircea, and a younger brother
named Radu. His early education was left in the hands of his mother, a Transylvanian noblewoman, and her family. His real
education began in 1436 after his father succeeded in claiming the Wallachian throne and killing his Danesti rival. His training
was typical to that common to the sons of the nobility throughout Europe. His first tutor in his apprenticeship to knighthood
was an elderly boyar who had fought under the banner of Enguerrand de Courcy at the battle of Nicolopolis against the Turks.
Dracula learned all the skills of war and peace that were deemed necessary for a Christian knight.
The political situation
in Wallachia remained unstable after Vlad II Dracul seized the throne in 1436. The power of the Turks was growing rapidly
as one by one the small states of the Balkans surrendered to the Ottoman onslaught. At the same time the power of Hungary
was reaching its zenith and would peak during the time of John Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara, of Romania origin), the White
Knight of Hungary, and his son King Matthius Corvinus (Mathyas Rex, or Matei Corvin, whose statue can be seen in Cluj Napoca).
Any prince of Wallachia had to balance his policies precariously between these two powerful neighbors and sometimes the Russians.
The prince of Wallachia was officially a vassal of the King of Hungary. In addition, Vlad Dracul was a member of the Order
of the Dragon and sworn to fight the infidel. At the same time the power of the Ottomans seemed unstoppable. Even in the time
of Vlad's grandfather, Mircea the Old, Wallachia had been forced to pay tribute to the Sultan in spite of some victories against
the Turks. Vlad was forced to renew that tribute and from 1436-1442 attempted to walk a middle coarse between his powerful
Picture below is Bran Castle
In 1442 Vlad attempted to remain neutral when the Turks invaded Transylvania. The Turks were defeated and the vengeful Hungarians
under John Hunyadi (the lord of the Huniazi castle) forced Dracul and his family to flee Wallachia. Hunyadi placed a Danesti,
Basarab II, on the Wallachian throne. In 1443 Vlad II regained the Wallachian throne with Turkish support, on the condition
that he sign a new treaty with the sultan that included not only the customary annual tribute but the promise to yearly send
contingents of Wallachian boys to join the sultans Janissaries. In 1444, to further assure to the sultan of his good faith,
Vlad II sent his two younger sons to Adrianople as hostages. Dracula remained as a hostage in Adrianople until 1448.
In 1444 the King of Hungary, Ladislas Poshumous, broke the peace and launched the Varna campaign under the command of
John Hunyadi in an effort to drive the Turks out of Europe. Hunyadi demanded that Vlad II fulfill his oath as a member of
the Order of the Dragon and a vassal of Hungary and join the crusade against the Turks. The Pope absolved Dracul of his Turkish
oath but the wily politician still attempted to steer a middle coarse. Rather than join the Christian forces himself he sent
his oldest son, Mircea. Perhaps he hoped the sultan would spare his younger sons if he himself did not join the crusade.
The results of the Varna Crusade are well known. The Christian army was utterly destroyed in the Battle of Varna. John Hunyadi
managed to escape the battle under conditions that add little glory to the White Knight's reputation. Many, apparently including
Mircea and his father, blamed Hunyadi for the debacle. From this moment forth John Hunyadi was bitterly hostile toward Vlad
Dracul and his eldest son. In 1447 Vlad Dracul was assassinated along with his son Mircea. Mircea was apparently buried alive
by the boyars and merchants of Targoviste. Hunyadi placed his own candidate, a member of the Danesti clan, on the throne of
On receiving the news of Vlad Dracul's death the Turks released Dracula and supported him as their own
candidate for the Wallachian throne. In 1448 Dracula managed to briefly seize the Wallachian throne with Turkish support.
Within two months Hunyadi forced Dracula to surrender the throne and flee to his cousin, the Prince of Moldavia, while Hunyadi
once again placed Vladislav II on the Wallachian throne.
Dracula remained in exile in Moldavia for three years,
until Prince Bogdan of Moldavia was assassinated in 1451. The resulting turmoil in Moldavia forced Dracula to flee to Transylvania
and seek the protection of his family enemy, Hunyadi. The timing was propitious; Hunyadi's puppet on the Wallachian throne,
Vladislov II, had instituted a pro-Turkish policy and Hunyadi needed a more reliable man in Wallachia. Consequently, Hunyadi
accepted the allegiance of his old enemy's son and put him forward as the Hungarian candidate for the throne of Wallachia.
Dracula became Hunyadi's vassal and received his father's old Transylvanian duchies of Faragas and Almas. Dracula remained
in Transylvania, under Hunyadi's protection, until 1456 waiting for an opportunity to retake Wallachia from his rival.
In 1453 the Christian world was shocked by the final fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans. The East Roman Empire which
had existed since the time of Constantine the Great and which for a thousand years had shielded the rest of Christendom from
Islam was no more. Hunyadi immediately began planning another campaign against the Turks. In 1456 Hunyadi invaded Turkish
Serbia while Dracula simultaneously invaded Wallachia. In the Battle of Belgrade Hunyadi was killed and his army defeated.
Meanwhile, Dracula succeeded in killing Vladislav II and taking the Wallachian throne but Hunyadi's defeat made his long term
tenure questionable. For a time at least, Dracula was forced to attempt to placate the Turks while he solidified his own position.
Dracula's main reign stretched from 1456 to 1462. His capital was the city of Targoviste while his castle was raised
some distance away in the mountains near the Arges River. Most of the atrocities associated with Dracula's name took place
in these years. It was also during this time that he launched his own campaign against the Turks. His campaign was relatively
successful at first. His skill as a warrior and his well-known cruelty made him a much feared enemy. However, he received
little support from his titular overlord, Matthius Corvinus, King of Hungary (the son of John Hunyadi) and Wallachia's resources
were too limited to achieve any lasting success against the conqueror of Constantinople.
The Turks finally succeeded
in forcing Dracula to flee to Transylvania in 1462. Reportedly, his first wife committed suicide by leaping from the towers
of Dracula's castle into the waters of the Arges River rather than surrender to the Turks. Dracula escaped across the mountains
into Transylvania and appealed to Matthius Corvinus for aid. Instead the King had Dracula arrested and imprisoned him in a
royal tower near Buda. Dracula remained a prisoner for twelve years.
Apparently his imprisonment was none too onerous.
He was able to gradually win his way back into the graces of Hungary's monarch; so much so that he was able to meet and marry
a member of the royal family (some of the sources claim Dracula's second wife was actually the sister of Matthius Corvinus).
The openly pro-Turkish policy of Dracula's brother, Radu the Handsome, who was prince of Wallachia during most of Dracula's
captivity probably was a factor in Dracula's rehabilitation. During his captivity Dracula also renounced the Orthodox faith
and adopted Catholicism. It is interesting to note that the Russian narrative, normally very favorable to Dracula, indicates
that even in captivity he could not give up his favorite past-time; he often captured birds and mice which he proceeded to
torture and mutilate - some were beheaded or tarred-and-feathered and released, most were impaled on tiny spears.
exact length of Dracula's period of captivity is open to some debate. The Russian pamphlets indicate that he was a prisoner
from 1462 until 1474. However, during that period Dracula managed to marry a member of the Hungarian royal family and have
two sons who were about ten years old when he reconquered Wallachia in 1476. McNally and Florescu place Dracula's actual period
of confinement at about four years from 1462 to 1466. It is unlikely that a prisoner would be allowed to marry into the royal
family. Diplomatic correspondence from Buda during the period in question also seems to support the claim that Dracula's actual
period of confinement was relatively short.
Apparently in years between his release in 1474 when he began preparations
for the reconquest of Wallachia Dracula resided with his new wife in a house in the Hungarian capital. One anecdote from that
period tells how a Hungarian captain followed a thief into Dracula's house. When Dracula discovered the intruders he killed
the Hungarian officer rather than the thief. When questioned about his actions by the king Dracula answered that a gentleman
does not enter the presence of a great ruler without an introduction - had the captain followed proper protocol he would not
have incurred the wrath of the prince.
In 1476 Dracula was again ready to make another bid for power. Dracula and
Prince Stephen Bathory of Transylvania invaded Wallachia with a mixed force of Transylvanians, a few dissatisfied Wallachian
boyars and a contingent of Moldavians sent by Dracula's cousin, Prince Stephen the Great of Moldavia. Dracula's brother, Radu
the Handsome, had died a couple of years earlier and had been replaced on the Wallachian throne by another Turkish candidate,
Basarab the Old, a member of the Danesti clan. At the approach of Dracula's army Basarab and his coherents fled, some to the
protection of the Turks, others to the shelter of the mountains. After placing Dracula on the throne Stephen Bathory and the
bulk of Dracula's forces returned to Transylvania, leaving Dracula's tactical position very weak. Dracula had little time
to gather support before a large Turkish army entered Wallachia determined to return Basarab to the throne. Dracula's cruelties
over the years had alienated the boyars who felt they had a better chance of surviving under Prince Basarab. Apparently, even
the peasants, tired of the depredations of the Impaler, abandoned him to his fate. Dracula was forced to march to meet the
Turks with the small forces at his disposal, somewhat less than four thousand men.
Dracula was killed in battle
against the Turks near the small town of Bucharest (the actual capital city of Romania) in December of 1476. Some reports
indicated that he was assassinated by disloyal Wallachian boyars just as he was about to sweep the Turks from the field. Other
accounts have Dracula falling in defeat, surrounded by the bodies of his loyal Moldavian bodyguard (the troops loaned by Prince
Stephen of Moldavia remained with Dracula after Stephen Bathory returned to Transylvania). Still other reports claim that
Dracula, at the moment of victory, was accidentally struck down by one of his own men. Dracula's body was decapitated by the
Turks and his head sent to Constantinople where the sultan had it displayed on a stake as proof that the Impaler was dead.
He was reportedly buried at Snagov, an island monastery located near Bucharest.