The first surprising thing about Dracula is his name. His father’s name was Vlad the Dragon or Vlad II Dracul after Sigismund of Luxembourg made him a member of the Order of the Dragon in 1431.
Vlad II Dracul (circa 1395-1447) was an illegitimate son of Mircea of Wallachia, who somehow managed to become ruler of Wallachia (now southern Romania, where Bucharest is) between 1436 to 1442 and again from 1443 to 1447.
His much more famous son Vlad III the Impaler (circa 1431 to 1477) ~ commonly known as Dracula ~ actually spent most of his life in prison. He was Vlad II Dracul’s second son, and in 1442 when he was around 11 years old, his father left him and his younger brother Radu as hostages at the Sultan’s court in return for his own freedom. Thus Dracula spent his formative years as a “guest” of the Sultan Murad II.
Of course, we do not know what happened to Dracula and his brother, but it is possible that they were badly treated, even abused. If so, it explains much of Dracula’s behavior when he became an adult.
In 1447, when Dracula was around 16 years old, his father and eldest brother were murdered. In this way, Dracula became his father’s heir and ruled Wallachia from October to November 1448, April 1456 to July 1462 and June 1475 to December 1476 or January 1477, when he was either murdered or killed in battle.
In between his first and second reigns, he went into exile in the Ottoman Empire, in present-day Turkey, while he was imprisoned in Hungary for fourteen years between his second and third reigns.
Nevertheless, this vicious, brilliant man is a Romanian national hero, the only one to have the honor of being buried in a religious building, in this case the Monastery at Snagov.
For Dracula hated the Turks ~ perhaps because he had been so badly treated by them when he was a boy ~ and was the only Medieval ruler who successfully prevented them from conquering Wallachia and Transylvania in modern-day Romania. He earned his nickname “The Impaler” from the way he treated tens of thousands of Turkish soldiers at the beginning of his second reign. This method of torture – in which the victim is left to die on a stick that has been pushed through him (or her) ~ scared the Turks so much they were reluctant to engage with him directly.
After being forgotten for over 500 years, Vlad III The Impaler was brought to life in 1897 by Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Since then, over 400 movies have been made for a fascinated public. I am told that the one to watch is Mehmed vs. Vlad, part of the Rise of Empires TV series made between 2020 and 2022.
Stay tuned and I will tell you what my thoughts are…