Vlad Tepes III, the Prince of Wallachia was born in 1431 in Sighisoara, Transylvania, which was in the Kingdom of Hungary (today it is part of Romania). Vlad’s father was the son of Voivode Mircea the Elder, and his mother is thought to be the second wife of Vlad Dracul, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia.
Vlad was a middle child. He had two older half-brothers, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, and a younger brother, Radu III the Handsome.
Vlad’s father was vested to the Order of the Dragon, and at 5 years old, Vlad was also initiated into the order. Vlad II was known as Dracul, which made Vlad III, Dracula.
During his father’s reign, Vlad II brought his sons to Targoviste, which was the capital of Wallachia at the time.
Here, Vlad learned his combat skills, as well as geography, math, science, languages, classical arts, and philosophy.
Reign of Dracula
When Dracul was killed in the December of 1447, the Ottomans invaded Wallachia and Vlad III took the throne. His first reign was short, as Wallachia was restored to his ally Vladislay II. Vlad fled to Moldavia and lived under the protection of his uncle Bogdan II, who was then assassinated in October 1451. Vlad then fled to Hungary and reconciled with Hunyadi and Vlad became his advisor.
In 1456, Vlad led a contingent into Wallachia and reconquered his native land. He killed Vladislay II in hand-to-hand combat, taking reign for a second time.
Vlad III was known for his cruelty and sadistic pleasure of killing people. It’s estimated that his victims lie between 40,000 to 100,000 people; according to German legend, he killed at least 80,000 people an burned whole villages and fortresses to the ground.
Vlad preferred to impale his victims. He had a forest of staked victims outside Brasov; a nearby executioner would cut a part the other victims. At one point, it was noted that Vlad had at least 20,000 impaled corpses outside Targoviste, Vlad’s capital.
There are stories of the invading Ottoman army that told of rotting corpses in the banks of the Danube.
Vlad did not see people as human beings. He made many of his worker, work naked. He treated many worse than he did the animals. One day, Vlad decided to cleanse his kingdom of those he felt were lazy, unproductive, and weak. He invited all the poor souls to a banquet in the great hall in Tirgoviste; when he felt the guests were well fed, drunk, and complacent, he made an appearance, asking them how they would like to never feel pain or hunger again. The guests were quite enthusiastic, so he obliged by having his men board up the guests and set it on fire.
Vlad Dracula impaled 30,000 merchants for disobeying trade laws. He left the bodies to rot outside the city as a reminder to those who disobeyed him.
He was always quite proud of his work, showing off the corpses in arranged circular patterns based off their rank and wealth.
During his reign, Dracula had people decapitated, had their eyes gouged, skinned people alive, boiled people, burnt people, dismembered, eviscerated, and sometimes just physically disfigured people for his own entertainment.
In one incident, Vlad had Turkish ambassadors in his home. They refused to remove their Phrygian cap while in his presence. He asked them why they insulted him in such manner, and they replied that it was custom that their hats remained on their head. Vlad then honored their tradition by ordering their hats be nailed to their heads.
There were rumors about Vlad. Some said he ate the flesh and drank the blood of his enemies.
Vlad’s tyranny was so extreme that no one dared to break his laws. He even had one of his mistresses disemboweled publicly for having lied about being pregnant with his child.
Vlad particularly enjoyed torturing women, often mutilating their breasts and sexual organs. There’s even one rumor that he forced mothers to eat their own babies.
Vlad may have been fearsome, but he was not immortal. During battle in 1476, Vlad was killed. Some say it was by the hands of his own men, since he was disguised as a Turk and others say he was killed and decapitated, only recognizable by his vestments and medallions.