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The Real Dracula

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Yes, there was a real Dracula, and he was a true prince of darkness. He was Prince Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad Tepes, meaning "Vlad the Impaler." The Turks called him Kaziglu Bey, or "the Impaler Prince." He was the prince of Wallachia, but, as legend suggests, he was born in Transylvania, which at that time was ruled by Hungary.

According to legend, a Transylvanian named Radu Negru, or Rudolph the Black founded Wallachia in 1290. Dracula's grandfather, Prince Mircea the Old, reigned from 1386 to 1418. He fought to keep Wallachia independent from the Turks but was forced to pay tribute to them. He and his descendants continued to rule Wallachia, but under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey).

The throne of Wallachia was not necessarily passed from father to son. The prince, or voivode, was elected by the country's boyars, or land-owning nobles. This caused fighting among family members, assassinations, and other unpleasantness. Eventually the royal House of Basarab was split into two factions -- Mircea's descendants, and the descendants of another prince named Dan II. Dan's descendants were called the Danesti.

Mircea had an illegitimate son, Vlad, born around 1390. He grew up in the court of King Sigismund of Hungary, first probably as a hostage and later as a page. Sigismund, who became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410, founded a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon to uphold Catholicism and defend the empire against Turkey. Vlad was admitted to the Order, probably in 1431. The boyars of Wallachia started to call him Dracul, meaning "dragon." Vlad's second son would be known as Dracula, or "son of the dragon." Dracul also meant "devil." So some of Dracula's enemies called him "son of the devil."

Sigismund made Vlad the military governor of Transylvania, a post he held from 1431 to 1435. During that time he lived in the town of Sighisoara or Schassburg. You can still visit the citadel there and even the house where Vlad's son Dracula was born. Today there's a restaurant on the second floor. There's also a mural in the house that may depict Vlad Dracul.

Young Dracula

Dracula was born in November or December of 1431(not sure). His given name was Vlad. He had an older brother, Mircea, and a younger brother Radu, the Handsome. Their mother may have been an unknown Transylvanian noble. He may have also had 2 other brothers, Vlad the Monk, and Mircea, who were born of Caltuna, a native Wallachian woman (the fact that 2 children where Mircea, implies that there must have been different mothers). It is said that Dracula's mother educated him in his early years. Later he was trained for knighthood by an old boyar who had fought the Turks. He was taught many things such as, swimming, fencing, jousting, archery, court etiquette, and above all horsemanship, in which he excelled.

Dracula's father was not content to remain a mere governor forever. During his years in Transylvania, he gathered supporters for his plan to seize Wallachia's throne from its current occupant, a Danesti prince named Alexandru I. In late 1436 or early 1437 Vlad Dracul killed Alexandru and became Prince Vlad II.

Vlad was a vassal of Hungary and also had to pay tribute to Hungary's enemy, Turkey. In 1442 Turkey invaded Transylvania. Vlad tried to stay neutral, but Hungary's rulers blamed him and drove him and his family out of Wallachia. A Hungarian general, Janos Hunyadi (who may have been the illegitimate son of Emperor Sigismund) made a Danesti named Basarab II the prince of Wallachia.

The following year Vlad regained the throne with the help of the sultan of Turkey. In 1444 he sent his two younger sons to Turkey to prove his loyalty. Dracula was about 13. He spent the next four years in Adrianople, Turkey as a hostage.

In 1444 Hungary went to war with Turkey and demanded that Vlad join the crusade. As a member of the Order of the Dragon, Vlad was sworn to obey this summons. But he didn't want to anger the Turks, so he sent his eldest son, Mircea, in his place. The Christian army was demolished at the Battle of Varna, and Vlad and Mircea blamed Janos Hunyadi.

In 1447 Vlad and Mircea were murdered. The boyars and merchants of the Wallachian city Tirgoviste killed Mircea. There are different stories about how he died - he may have been tortured and burned, or buried alive. Apparently his father died at the same time. He is said to have fled, but was pursued and killed in the marshes of Baltani. Some say that Hunyadi organized the assassinations. (Dracul's tomb has never been found.)

Since Vlad and Mircea were dead, and Dracula and Radu were still in Turkey, Hunyadi was able to put a member of the Danesti clan, Vladislav II, on the Wallachian throne. The Turks didn't like having a Hungarian puppet in charge of Wallachia, so in 1448 they freed Dracula and gave him an army. He was seventeen years old.

It seems that Dracula's little brother Radu chose to remain in Turkey. He had grown up there, and apparently remained loyal to the sultan.

Dracula's Reign

With the help of his Turkish army, Dracula seized the Wallachian throne. However, he only ruled for two months before Hunyadi forced him into exile in Moldavia. Again Vladislav II became Wallachia's prince.

Three years later Prince Bogdan of Moldavia was assassinated and Dracula fled the country. By now Vladislav II had become a supporter of Turkey, and Hunyadi was sorry he had put him on the throne. Everyone switched sides - Dracula became Hunyadi's vassal, and Hunyadi now supported Dracula's attempt to regain his throne. In 1456 Hunyadi invaded Turkish Serbia while Dracula invaded Wallachia. Hunyadi was killed, but Dracula killed Vladislav II and took back his throne.

He established his capital at Tirgoviste - you can still see the ruins of his palace there. And nearby a statue of Vlad Tepes still stands. He is considered an important figure in Romanian history because he unified Wallachia and resisted the influence of foreigners.

Actually, it's Dracula's cruelty that most non-Romanians remember. After becoming prince, Dracula supposedly invited many beggars and other old, sick and poor people to a banquet at his castle. When his guests had finished eating their meal and drinking a toast to him, Dracula asked them, "Would you like to be without cares, lacking nothing in this world?"

"Yes," they said enthusiastically.

So Dracula had the castle boarded up and set it on



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