Vlad the Impaler


Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476)


A stylized replica of the Order of the Dragon's insignia. Vlad the Impaler, a.k.a. Vlad III, Dracula, Drakulya,  or Tepes, was born in late 1431, in the citadel of Sighisoara, Transylvania, the son of  Vlad II or Dracul, a military governor, appointed by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund.  Vlad Dracul was also a knight in the Order of the Dragon, a secret fraternity created in 1387 by the Emperor, sworn to uphold Christianity and defend the empire against the Islamic Turks.  Transylvania, along with Moldavia, and Wallachia, are now joined together as Romania. The name Dracul can be interpreted in two ways, the first translation from Romanian would be "Dragon", but it sometimes also means "Devil".  Vlad was not called Tepes, which means ""spike" in Romanian, until after his death;  instead, he was known as Vlad Dracula, the added "a" meaning "son of", so essentially, throughout his life, he was known as the "son of the Devil".

While growing up with such a name would normally present problems for most of us, Vlad certainly did not seem to mind, as he really did live up to his title; but before we look upon the exploits of the son, let us learn a bit more about the father.  In 1436, Vlad Dracul took over the throne of Wallachia, taking up residence in the palace of Tirgoviste.  It was there young Vlad Dracula would get his first taste of the opulent lifestyle, and perhaps also where the beast within would begin to grow.  Merely two years later, in a strange turn of events, Vlad II betrayed the Order of the Dracul, forming an alliance with the Turks.  He even went as far as allowing Sultan Murad II to keep his two sons, Vlad Dracula, and his younger brother Radu, as "insurance" that he would not plan to strike against the Turks.

In the winter of 1447, Vlad Dracul was assassinated in a coup orchestrated by one of his relatives, John Hunyadi, who had devoted his life to fighting the Ottoman Turks, and did not approve of Vlad Dracul's pro-Turkish policy.  Vlad Dracula was granted his freedom following his father's death, but Radu decided to stay behind.  In addition to learning of his father's demise, Vlad was also told his older brother, Mircea had had his eyes gouged out, and been buried alive by the boyars of Tirgoviste. While in captivity, Vlad had grown resentful, and vowed to have his revenge. 

The throne of Wallachia, which would have normally been reserved for Vlad Dracula, was now occupied by the boyars. The still teenaged Vlad Dracula, with the help of Pasha Mustafa Hassan' Turkish cavalry, defeated the boyars, reclaiming the throne for a very short period of time, as Hunyadi would soon thereafter appoint Vladislav II to the post.  Vlad Dracula formed an alliance with Hunyadi, in the hopes of persuading him he was the rightful heir to the throne, but it wasn't until 1456, that Vlad Dracula would make his move, killing his father's murderer, and defeating Vladislav II, to take over as the new ruler of Wallachia.  In 1569, following an Easter Sunday feast, Vlad Dracula had all the boyar families who had been attending arrested.  Those who were in good health were condemned to a life of slavery, and put to work on the construction of his Poenari Castle on the Arges river. Those who were old and weak were impaled for all to see.  Thus began Vlad the Impaler's reign of blood and terror. 

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