Royal blood Monster, bloodsucker and the pride of an entire nation: the life of Count Dracula
“Lenta.ru” continues a series of articles about the lives of dictators and rulers. Last time we told about the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, the most brilliant and powerful woman of the ancient world. Loving and voluptuous, she drove men crazy. For one night with the ruler they were ready to go to death. This time we move to the Middle Ages. We will talk about one of the most bloodthirsty rulers – Vlad Tepes Dracula. In the mass consciousness this monarch has become a monster, which has no equal. The personality of this man, who was considered a sadist and a maniac, is still controversial. By the way, there are those who are sure that he was an ordinary figure of his era, in which demonstrative cruelty was quite commonplace.
The King’s Ghoul
“I have Transylvanian blood in my veins, and my genealogical tree shows that I am descended from Vlad III Tsepesh,” British Prince Charles said at the opening of a travel fair in London in 2012.
The Romanian National Tourist Office had issued a brochure stating that the Royal family of the United Kingdom was related to Count Dracula, a prototype of Count Dracula, the Lords of Wallachia, who lived in the XV century. The British media wrote that the representative of the royal dynasty was named heir to Dracula in order to lure as many British tourists to Romania as possible. However, at the exhibition was presented to the dynastic tree of the Windsor dynasty, according to which the connection to the Transylvanian princes who ruled in the XV century still exists.
Vlad Tepes has become a character in movies more than once, but most directors have portrayed him as a vampire and otherworldly creature. Dracula Warrior – a real rarity
Still image: the movie “Dracula.”
Two royal families became related in the nineteenth century: King George V of Britain married Maria of Teck, who was a direct descendant of Vlad IV, brother of Tepes. Thus it turned out that Prince Charles is a descendant of Dracula in the sixteenth tribe.
“Romania – a country of mountains and legends, where the frosty night air does not give sleep howling wolves,” – said then the son of Queen Elizabeth II, adding that he was not afraid of his “bloodthirsty cousin,” and in 2006 even bought a small house in one of the Romanian villages.
Where exactly his famous Transylvanian ancestor lived is unclear. Now every castle in the country tells stories about Vlad Tepes, most of which, of course, are fictitious, and the residences themselves appeared several centuries after the death of the ruler. It is known for certain that the head of state was satisfied with little. The castle, where he actually lived, was surrounded by crenellated walls and blown by all the winds, dozens of log rooms were connected by narrow staircases, and some even by underground passages. Beautiful furniture, a collection of weapons, gold and silver all surrounded the ruler, but were of little value to him.
According to historians, he saw his main task as the creation of a unified state. Not surprisingly, for Romanians, Tepes is a national hero, a saint revered by the local church, a valiant warrior who fought against Ottoman expansion, and a ruler who sought to unite the fragmented state.
At that time there was a grueling struggle with the large feudal lords, the boyars. They were so accustomed to unlimited power in their clan districts that they resisted any attempt by the central government to gain control over the whole country. At the same time, they did not hesitate to turn to the Hungarians and the Ottomans for help. In the end, Tepes was able to create a unified state, putting an end to separatism.
However, such merits to the country do not cancel the fact that Dracula, according to historical documents, was in fact cruel and vengeful.
Dracula will come, put things in order
“Eat your porridge, or Dracula will come and take you away,” many generations of Romanian children have heard this folk proverb in their childhood. Around the world, the chilling legend of the bloodthirsty ruler evokes two feelings: genuine interest and horror. However, to the image of Count Dracula, created by the Irish writer Bram Stoker, he, of course, far from it. However, stories about the life of the Romanian ruler still excite the imagination.
For example, an unknown German author at the instigation of a Hungarian king in the late XV century after the death of Tepes wrote that he supposedly often dined under corpses impaled on a stake. It is said that once the governor’s servant could not stand the stench of decomposing bodies, so the despot ordered him to be placed on the highest stake with the words: “Now you will never smell the rot”.
Castle Bran from the north façade. This is where, according to Bram Stoker’s Gothic novel, the vampire Dracula lived.
It was rumored that the ferocious and ruthless tyrant burned vagrants he could feast with, forced parents to eat their own children, and drove nails through the heads of those who did not remove their hats before him. Neither was the governor ceremonious with unfaithful wives and widows who broke the rules of chastity. Tales were told that at the order of the tsepesh they had their genitals cut out, and then the women were stripped of their skin.
There are many such stories, and each of them, in its own way, is chilling to the soul. So, described the case when the ruler met with two wandering monks. Tepes wanted to know what the mood of the people about his rule. One of them told him that he was considered a villain, the other assured him that people praised him as a wise ruler, a liberator from the threat posed by the Ottoman Empire. All in all, both monks were right. The legend, however, has two endings. According to one version, Dracula had the first executed because he didn’t like his answer, according to the second, he was the one left alive, and the other was executed for lying.
In another story, a merchant traveling through Wallachia was robbed. He complained to Tepes. While the thief was being caught and put on a stake, on the order of the head of state, a purse was planted on the merchant, which contained one more coin than the one he had lost. Seeing the surplus, the merchant immediately reported it to the monarch. He laughed and said: “Well done for telling, or else you’d be sitting on a stake next to a thief.”
The local people were very afraid of their ruler. The name of Tepes alone instilled fear in them. If the previous stories about the life of Tepesh are not confirmed by any facts, then this event is considered to be credible. In order to instill honesty in the townspeople, a large bowl of gold was placed in the center of a square in the capital of Wallachia, near a local landmark. It was not guarded by anyone. Everyone could go up to it and drink water from it, but no one dared to steal it. Everyone understood the consequences of this crime.
The Romanian Ivan the Terrible
Vlad Tepes Dracula was born, according to some reports, in 1430. His real family name was Basarab – hence, incidentally, one of the regions of medieval Romania – Bessarabia. The nicknames “Dracul” – “the Dragon’s son” and Tepes – “putting on a stake” (a sharpened stake during his reign was the main instrument of execution – see Lenta.ru), he received after his accession to the throne.
The history of his family is partly reminiscent of what happened to Ivan the Terrible: the boyars have killed his relatives. When he came to power, he immediately dealt with all those responsible for the conspiracy. According to historical documents, “the number of those put to the stake at that time was about ten people.
Who is Vlad Tepes and why he became the prototype of the vampire Count Dracula
Dracula, the prince of darkness, is the most famous and perhaps the most popular mythical character. The legendary novel by Bram Storker, written in 1987, became the basis of the entire “gothic” subculture, as well as the ancestor of the whole “vampire” genre in literature and film. However, not everyone knows that the prototype of Count Dracula was a historical and no less frightening character – the commander of Wallachia (which joined Moldova in 1859) in the period from 1448 to 1476, known as Vlad III, alias Vlad Dracula (son of the Dragon) or Vlad Tepesh. According to some historical accounts, he was a cruel, even sadistic leader known for torturing his enemies. According to some estimates, he murdered more than 80,000 people during his lifetime. Most of them were staked. Why was the hero of the novel named after him? According to one legend, Stoker came across the name “Dracula” in an old history book, from which he learned that in Wallachia it could mean “devil.” However, in Romania, Vlad Tepes is not considered a devil at all. Here he is considered a national hero. He is remembered as the defender of his people from foreign invasion – Turkish soldiers and German merchants.
Vlad III, the ruler of Wallachia, who became the prototype of Count Dracula
Family of Count Vlad Dracula
Vlad III was born in 1431 in Transylvania, a rocky green part of modern Romania. True, it did not officially become part of this country until 1947. His mother was a princess from Moldavia, and his father, Vlad II, the illegitimate son of a Wallachian nobleman. Vlad II spent his youth at the court of Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary and future Emperor of the Roman Empire.
In the same year that Vlad III was born, his father was admitted to the Order of the Dragon. Like other knightly orders, this Christian military society was modeled after the medieval Crusaders. Its members were high-ranking knights, obliged to fight heresy and oppose the Ottoman Empire.
After joining the Order, Vlad II received the surname Dracul (Dragon). His son Vlad III was known as Vlad Dracul, or Dracula, “son of the Dragon. In 1436 Sigismund made Vlad II governor of Wallachia, but Vlad II did not remain loyal to him. He soon went over to the side of the enemy – he allied himself with the Ottoman leader, Sultan Murad II. To obtain a guarantee of loyalty, Murad demanded that Vlad II give him his two sons, one of whom was Vlad III.
After the murder of his father and brother, Vlad II is said to have been seized by a desire for revenge, which he carried out in a most cruel manner.
In 1447 Vlad II was deposed as ruler of Wallachia, captured and killed by local boyars and aristocrats. In the same year Vlad III’s older brother was murdered. He was blinded and buried alive. Janos Hunyadi, the Hungarian regent (head of state) who initiated the murder of Vlad II, appointed Vladislav II, another Wallachian nobleman, as the new voivode. It is quite possible that these events aroused in Vlad III a thirst for revenge. Soon after his release from Ottoman captivity (around 1447), he began his struggle for power.
In 1448, with the help of the Ottoman Empire, the 16-year-old Vlad III expelled Vladislav II from Walachia and ascended the throne. True, he had only been governor for two months before the Hungarians restored Vladislaus to his position. Vlad III went into exile. Little is known about the next eight years of his life except that he traveled through Moldavia and the Ottoman Empire.
At some point Vlad III switched sides in the Ottoman-Hungarian conflict, enlisting the military support of Hungary. Around the same time Vladislav II also betrayed his oath and joined the Turks. Vlad III. met Vladislav on the outskirts of Targoviste on 22 July 1456 and beheaded him during the melee. Since then the reign of Vlad III began.
There is a version that Vlad III was not a cruel ruler, but a victim of the propaganda of the time. Rumors denigrating Dracula were spread by his enemies.
The reign of Vlad Tepes
Vlad III began his reign with a strict crackdown on crime. He began to pursue a policy of zero tolerance even for minor transgressions, such as lying. He selected commoners for public office, thus creating a class of officials completely subordinate to himself. As a result, he could appoint, fire, and even execute his new officials at will.
Vlad III also had a plan of revenge against the dignitaries who had murdered his father and older brother, which he carried out in 1459. Vlad invited the boyars to a great Easter banquet together with their families (about 200 people in all). There he massacred the women and elders, and forced the men to slave labor. Many of them later died of exhaustion while building Poenari Castle, one of Vlad III’s favorite residences.
Castle Poenari – the favorite residence of “Count Dracula
The ruler created a new elite from peasants who had distinguished themselves on the battlefield and also created a kind of national guard. He freed the peasants and artisans of Wallachia from the tribute they paid to the Ottoman Empire. According to some accounts, his cruelty was sometimes directed at his own people as well. According to one legend, to get rid of the homeless and beggars whom the ruler considered thieves, he invited a large number of people to a feast, locked the doors and burned them all alive. In addition, Vlad III exterminated the gypsies or forcibly sent them into the army. The German population was also badly affected, which he first imposed a tax burden, and then wiped out entire German villages, killing thousands of people.
In 1459, when the city of Kronstadt (now Brasov) supported Vlad III’s rival, the response of the governor was brutal. He killed some 30,000 people and reportedly dined among his victims to personally observe their suffering. He ordered Kronstadt itself to be burned to the ground. Returning to Wallachia, the ruler impaled German merchants who had violated his trade laws.
The Foreign Policy of Vlad III
Regarding the foreign policy of Vlad III, it was different from that of his father and many other leaders of the time. He never stopped opposing the Turks. Vlad III’s tactics against the Ottoman Empire, both on and off the battlefield, were extremely brutal.
Vlad III remained an implacable enemy of the Ottoman Empire until the end of his life
Over time, Vlad III’s power, economy, and troops weakened so much that Matthias I, King of Hungary, was able to take him prisoner in 1462. Vlad was imprisoned in Hungary for 12 years. At the same time, power in Wallachia changed hands several times. Around 1475 Matthias I sent Vlad III to return Wallachia to Hungary. In November 1476 Dracula won his first victory, but suffered a severe defeat a month later. His rival, backed by Ottoman troops, ambushed, killed, and beheaded Vlad. His severed head was sent to Mehmed II in Constantinople to be displayed over the city gates.
Bram Stoker, author of the legendary novel of Count Dracula
How the legend of Count Dracula was born
Vlad III might have remained a mere medieval episode had it not been for a book by William Wilkinson, the British Consul in Wallachia, published in 1820. It mentions the infamous warlord Vlada Tepesh. It is known that Bram Stoker had never been to Vlad’s homeland, but came across Wilkinson’s book in 1890.
“Dracula in the Wallachian language means “Devil.” The Wallachians used to give it as a surname to any man who stood out for his courage, cruelty, or cunning,” wrote Bram Stoker.
The novel, published in 1897, excited readers, who began to speculate about the source of Stoker’s inspiration. Many speculated that the bloody life of Vlad Tepes, the medieval Wallachian ruler, was the sole basis for Stoker’s character. However, the writer used many sources for his creation.
Vampires were in vogue in the late Victorian period, and Stoker was probably familiar with earlier Gothic works. Many speculate that the writer was inspired by them, but after reading William Wilkinson’s book, turned his vampire into Dracula. By the way, in describing the condition of a man bitten by a vampire, Bram Stoker, like other authors of vampire novels of the time, lists the symptoms of leukemia.
Actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula
More recently, however, an intriguing alternative theory has been advanced by some scholars and historians about Dracula’s original source: the 19th-century cholera epidemic that killed up to 1,000 people in the town of Sligo in the west of Ireland. Stoker’s mother, Charlotte Thornley, survived the event at the age of 14. She later described it to her son in horrifying detail.
To keep people from fleeing Sligo and spreading the plague, officials dug trenches around the town and blocked roads. Corpses lay in the streets. Doctors and nurses would take cholera patients drugged with opium or laudanum and place them prematurely in mass graves.
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Stoker was fascinated by the description of cholera victims who were buried alive. This may have served as the basis for Dracula’s description of the undead. In one interview, Stoker even admitted that his story was “inspired by the idea of someone being buried before they die.” But whatever the case, the novel was truly brilliant. After reading it, many people must have wondered – can a person really become a vampire and feed on blood? That’s a question we’ve answered before.