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Vlad Tepes: Tyrant or Misunderstood?

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Vlad Tepes III

Portrait of Vlad Tepes III

Portrait of Vlad Tepes III

Who Was Vlad?

Vlad the Impaler, one of history’s most brutal, evil tyrants…… or was he just the defender of Europe and Christianity, doing all in his power to keep the Ottoman Empire and its Islamic cohorts at bay?

You decide….

Most researchers believe the vampiric character of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel of the same name, was based upon the infamous historical figure, Vlad Tepes (pronounced tse-pesh). This was a man who periodically ruled an area of modern day Romania called Wallachia in the mid-15th century. Named historically under the titles of Vlad III, Vlad Dracula and Vlad

Tepes ('The Impaler'.) Tepes translates as "Impaler" and he was so-called because of his proclivity to punish victims by impaling them on wooden stakes, then publicly displaying them to intimidate his enemies and to indicate the punishment would-be transgressors would face if they broke his strict moral code. Incredibly, it is claimed anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000 people were executed in this barbaric and cruel manner.

In 1410, Hungary's King Sigismund became the Holy Roman Emperor He was the founder of a secret brotherhood of knights called the Order of the Dragon, tasked with the aim of upholding Christianity and defending the Holy Roman Empire against the expansionist aims of the Ottoman Turks. The orders heraldic emblem was a dragon with unfurled wings, suspended on a cross. Vlad III’s father (Vlad II) entered the Order circa 1431 due to his bravery fighting the Turks. Henceforth, Vlad II wore the emblem of the order and subsequently, as ruler of Wallachia, his coinage bore the symbol of the dragon.

Sigismund - King of Hungary

Sigismund - King of Hungary

The Socio-Political Background

Whilst researching this article I found mention of the word ‘dracul’ meaning 'dragon' and hence the name Vlad Dracul being given to the father of Vlad Tepes. The actual word for dragon in Romanian is 'balaur', whilst 'Dracul' actually means 'devil'. However, for whatever reason, possibly due to a double meaning in the Romanian language, Vlad Tepes's father came to be known as or 'Vlad the dragon' or 'Vlad Dracul'.

In Romanian, the suffix 'ulea' means 'the son of'. Therefore using this interpretation, Vlad III became Vlad Dracula, literally meaning 'the son of the dragon.' So whichever way you look at the translation of these titles, the names Dracul and Dracula took on a menacing overtone for enemies of Vlad Tepes and his father.

For a full understanding of Vlad Tepes's story, it is important to get a full grasp of the socio-political backdrop of this tumultuous region of the Balkans during the 15th-century. Basically, this boils down to a story of the struggle to obtain power and control of and over Wallachia, a region of the Balkans, in modern-day southern Romania, which lay sandwiched between the areas two most potent forces, namely Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.

For almost a full millennium Constantinople, now called Istanbul in modern-day Turkey, had stood as the major frontier bastion of Christianity and the Byzantine or East Roman Empire, which impeded Islam’s expansion into Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottomans succeeded in encroaching deep into the Christian held countries during this period. When Constantinople succumbed in 1453 to Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror, all of Christendom was suddenly threatened by the armed power of the Ottoman Empire. The Kingdom of Hungary to the north and west of Wallachia, which had also reached its zenith at this same time, took on the role of defender of Christendom.

Wallachia's rulers were therefore required to acknowledge and appease these two empires in order to survive, often forming alliances with one or the other, and dependent upon what served their best interests at the time. For the people of Romania, Vlad Tepes is best known for his staunch and steadfast success in standing up to the invading Ottoman Turks and establishing relative sovereignty and independence, although for a relatively brief period of time.

Sultan Mehmed - Ruler of the expansionist Ottoman Empire

Sultan Mehmed - Ruler of the expansionist Ottoman Empire

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

One other significant factor influencing political life at this time was the means of succession to the Wallachian throne. Although the ruling title of Wallachia was a hereditary birthright to the first born son, it was far from guaranteed. For the most part, the boyars were wealthy land-owning nobles, mostly of Saxon heritage, and it was their task to elect the voivode (which was the term used Prince) from any of the various eligible members of the royal family. The succession to the throne of Wallachia was all too often obtained through subterfuge or violent means. The Assassination and violent overthrow of reigning rulers were all too common. It is indeed noteworthy that both Vlad Tepes III and his father assassinated competitors in order to earn the throne of Wallachia.

Wallachia came into being in 1290, founded by Radu Negru (Rudolph the Black). It was ruled over by Hungary until 1330, at which time it became an independent country. The first ruler of Wallachia was Prince Basarab the Great, an ancestral relative of Vlad Tepes. Vlad’s grandfather, Prince Mircea the Old, ruled from 1386 to 1418. The House of Basarab ultimately divided into two separate schisms, Mircea’s descendants, and the descendants of another voivode known only as Dan (also called the Danesti). Many of the ensuing struggles to attain the Wallachian throne during Vlad’s time were between these two opposing factions.

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In 1431, Hungary's King Sigismund named Vlad Dracul the military governor of Transylvania, a region which lay directly to the north west of Wallachia. It was during the same year that Vlad III was born, towards the end of 1431. Vlad Dracul was not content merely to be the governor of Transylvania however and he sought to gather support for his scheme to seize Wallachia from its current ruler, Alexandru I, of the Danesti faction. 5 years later in 1436 his plan came to fruition when he killed Alexandru and thus became Vlad II.

Vlad Dracul attempted to find a middle-ground between his two powerful neighbours in the following six years. The voivode of Wallachia officially was a vassal of the King of Hungary and yet Vlad was forced to pay tribute to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire too, just as his father, Mircea the Old, had been forced to do. Vlad was still a member of the Order of the Dragon and had sworn to do whatever was required of him to defeat the infidel. Yet at the time the Ottomans expansion seemed unstoppable.

In 1442 Vlad tried to remain neutral when the Ottomans attempted to take Transylvania, which seems surprising due to his membership of the Order of the Dragon. The Turks were subsequently beaten back, and the understandably angry Hungarians under the command of Janos (sometimes seen written as John) Hunyadi, the White Knight of Hungary, forced Vlad Dracul and his family members to leave Wallachia. A year later, 1443, Vlad took back the Wallachian throne with the support of the Turks, but only on the condition that Vlad send an annual contingent of Wallachian male children to join the Sultan’s Janissaries, or elite infantry troops. Then in 1444, in order to further reassure the Sultan of his good will, Vlad Dracul sent Vlad III and Radu (the Handsome), his two youngest sons, to Adrianople (now a part of modern-day Bulgaria and called Edirne) as hostages of the Sultan. Vlad III stayed there receiving a Turkish education until 1448.

In 1444 the peace was broken as Hungary launched the Varna Campaign, led by the inimitable Janos Hunyadi, in a concerted attempt to force the Turks from Europe. Hunyadi reminded Vlad Dracul of his oath to the Order of the Dragon and commitment as a subservient vassal of Hungary to join the holy crusade against the Ottomans. Vlad however, being the ever cautious man that he was, instead of joining the Christian armies himself, sent Mircea, his eldest son. Maybe this decision was taken in the hope that the Sultan would spare his youngest sons if he didn't join the fight against the Sultans forces.

For Janos and the Hungarians, the Varna Crusade resulted in a complete failure, seeing the Christian army utterly vanquished at the Battle of Varna. In a somewhat less than glorious manner, Janos Hunyadi did manage to escape the battle and from this moment onwards held a deep-seated bitter hostility towards Vlad Dracul and his son Mircea. In 1447 Vlad II and Mircea were both assassinated. Reportedly, Mircea buried alive by the boyars and rich Saxon merchants of Tirgoviste. This incident becomes a key reason for Vlad Tepes’ revenge on the boyars was exacted when he came to power. A candidate of Janos Hunyadi own choosing, from the rival Danesti clan, was placed on the throne of Wallachia.

Janos Hunyadi, the White Knight of Hungary

Janos Hunyadi, the White Knight of Hungary

Vlad Comes to Power

The Ottomans responded to the news of Vlad Dracul’s death by releasing Vlad III from his captive status and supporting him as their candidate for the throne of Wallachia. With Ottoman backing and aged just 17, in 1448, Vlad III briefly managed to seize the Wallachian throne. After a brief reign of just 2 months in power, however, Vlad was compelled by Hunyadi to surrender the throne and flee the country, whereupon he sought refuge with his cousin, the Prince of Moldavia. Vladislav II, Vlad’s successor to the throne, unexpectedly installed a pro-Turkish stance to his governing of the country, which Hunyadi and the Hungarian's found to be completely unacceptable. Reversing his initial decision, he reinstalled Vlad III, his old enemy’s son, as a more suitable candidate for Hungarian interests in the country, and together they formed an allegiance to take back power by force. Vlad III received the Transylvanian lands formerly ruled over by his father and remained there, with the full protection of Hunyadi, awaiting an opportunity to retake Wallachia from his rival.

In 1453, however, the unthinkable happened and Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. Hunyadi increased the size of his campaign against the encroaching Ottomans and in 1456 he invaded Serbia which was held by the Ottoman Empire whilst Vlad III simultaneously invaded Wallachia. Hunyadi was killed in the Battle of Belgrade and his army was beaten. Vlad III fared better though and succeeded in killing Vladislav II and retaking the Wallachian throne.

The years spanning 1456-1462 signalled the beginning of Vlad's main stint as monarch of Wallachia. During this period he instituted many strict laws, stood steadfast in his opposition to the Turks and began his reign of terror by impalement.

In November or December of 1431, in the Transylvanian city of Sighisoara, Vlad III was born. His father, at this time, was living in exile in this part of the country. Amazingly, the house where he was born is still standing, although it has most likely been added to and extended from its original design. Located in a prosperous neighbourhood surrounded by the homes of the Saxon and Magyar merchants and boyars who would later become Vlad's enemy.

Not much is known about the early years of Vlad III’s life. Vlad Dracula was the second child of Vlad Dracul having an elder brother called Mircea and a younger brother known as Radu the Handsome. Early tuition, it seems was mostly left to his Transylvanian mother's family, but following his father's succession to the throne of Wallachia in 1436, his formal education began.

Throughout 15th-Century Europe, the education of nobility would have differed very little from that which Vlad would have received. Learning all the skills of politics, war and peace that were deemed necessary of a Christian knight and a possible future ruler of his country proved no problem to Vlad.

In 1444, aged 13, Vlad and Radu were sent to Adrianople as hostages, in an attempt by their father to appease the Ottoman Sultan. There he stayed until 1448 when the Turks released him to accede his father following his death. Radu chose to remain in Turkey, where he had grown up and was later supported by the Turks as a replacement candidate for the Wallachian throne in direct conflict with his own brother.

As previously stated, Vlad III’s initial reign was quite short (2 months), and it was not until 1456, under the support of Hunyadi and the Kingdom of Hungary that he returned to the throne. He established Tirgoviste as his capital city and began to build his castle some distance away in the mountains near the Arges River. Most of the atrocities associated with Vlad III took place during this period of his reign of power.

Vlad's Mountain Stronghold

Poenari Castle

Poenari Castle

Impalement Explained

Vlad Dracula as a historical character is known more than anything else for his inhumanity and cruelty to his enemies and transgressors of his laws. Impalement was Vlad III’s preferred method of torture and execution. Impalement was one of the cruellest and most inhumane ways of execution one can imagine. Usually slow and painful, it could take as long as 2 days to kill the suffering soul at the rough end of this method.

The method sometimes employed by Vlad involved tying a horse to each of the victim’s legs to ease them apart no matter how much they may struggle, and then a blunt, greased stake was gradually eased into the body via the rectum. The stake had to be blunt, as a sharpened stake would kill the victim too quickly. The stake was then slowly forced through the body until eventually emerging via the mouth although this wasn't always so. Occasionally, the victim was pierced through the chest, abdomen or other bodily orifices, dependent upon the whim of Vlad. Even infants were not immune from this archaic brutality, even though they couldn't possibly have done anything to break Vlad's laws or offend Tepes in any conceivable way. The goal seems have been a forerunner of the 'shock and awe' tactics employed in more modern conflicts, designed to intimidate the desired audience of Vlad.

Tepes would these impaled victims and their stakes arranged in different patterns, like a concentric circle around a town that he was targeting. The spears height was an indication of the import of the victim's societal or military status, with the higher ranked people raised on much larger stakes to show them off more. Decaying and rotting corpses could be left up for several months. There is one famous instance where an invading Turkish force was turned back by the sheer shock induced in their army by the sight of thousands of rotting corpses impaled on the riverbanks of the Danube. Mehmed II himself, warrior and conqueror of Constantinople, a man who was far from being squeamish, returned to Constantinople, aghast at the sight of around 20,000 impaled Turks on the outskirts of Tirgoviste. This spectacle went down into the history books as "the Forest of the Impaled."

Woodcutting of the infamous 'Forest of the Impaled'

Woodcutting of the infamous 'Forest of the Impaled'

The Fate of the Nobles and Boyars is Sealed

Thousands were often impaled at a single time. On St. Bartholomew’s Day 1459, in Brasov, Transylvania, Vlad III had 30,000 merchants and boyars impaled. This occasion is portrayed in one of the most infamous woodcuts of the time, which shows Vlad Dracula enjoying a feast surrounded by this forest of victims. In 1460, this time in Sibiu, again in Transylvania, 10,000 people suffered similar grand scale impalement.

Impalement may have been Vlad Dracula’s favourite method of execution, but he was not limited to it. On the menu of torture was a whole host of spine-chilling and mind-warped cruelties. The cruel voivode rammed nails into skulls, amputated limbs, blinded people, exposure to nature's elements which could have included the harsh summer sun, the equally harsh winter temperatures and wild animals, he had noses cut off (though it isn't known if this was to spite their faces), strangling, burning people alive, removing ears, mutilating sexual organs (this was more prevalent with female victims), scalping and skinning and the list goes on.

Vlad’s attentions were not limited to men and criminals. Women, children, lords and ladies, and even ambassadors of foreign countries. All incurred wrath at the whim of Vlad's mood. The large majority of victims, however, were the merchants and boyars whom he so despised because of the way they conspired to have his brother and father executed.

Some have rationalised Vlad’s atrocities on the basis that these wealthy German Saxon merchants, land owners and boyars were parasites preying on the native people of Wallachia and Transylvania. Racism, greed and nationalism are by no means a modern phenomenon. It is true that these boyars were self-serving, political and conniving and used their wealth to affect the politics of the day, as Vlad knew all too well to his families cost. It may be less easy to countenance the execution of many of Vlad’s own Wallachian and Transylvanian populace.

Tepes’s reign of terror began almost as soon gained the throne of Wallachia. Revenge of his father and eldest brother’s deaths was uppermost in Vlad's thoughts, and this led to one of his first acts of significant cruelty. An Easter feast was arranged in Tirgoviste, for the nobles and boyars and their families, many of whom had played an integral part in the overthrow of previous Wallachian voivodes, but more importantly to Vlad, had been instrumental in the conspiracy that led to the deaths of Vlad Dracul and Mircea. Every attendee at the feast had witnessed no less than 7 reigns, which is a good indicator of the longevity of the princes of the day compared to these boyars and nobles. As the feast began, the nobles were all arrested and the older ones were impaled right there and then, whilst the younger ‘guests’ and their families were taken north from the city to his intended mountain stronghold of Poenari Castle. At Poenari they had to labour under slave-like conditions, forced to help with the rebuilding of the ruined watchtower which formed the basis for Poenari Castle. It is said they were forced to work so long and so hard that the clothes literally fell off and they had to continue working naked. Hardly any survived this ordeal. This action also had the added benefit of solidifying Vlad's power base by wiping out the manipulative boyars who had brought down his father’s reign.

Vlad systematically wiped out the old boyars of Wallachia, determined to give himself a strong power base without the undermining influence of the conniving type of political influence that was the undoing of his father. In their stead he brought in men of the lower to middle classes, promoting them to new positions, assured of their loyalty because of their new found status in life given to them by their voivode.

Remaining walls of Tirgoviste Palace

Remaining walls of Tirgoviste Palace

Fleeing the Ottoman's and Hungarian captivity

Vlad attempted to enforce a strict morality amongst his countries people, and in so doing committed yet more atrocities. Female chastity was a particular concern of his. The wanton loss of virginity in young girls, adultery and unchasteness, were all things that made the perpetrators a target of Vlad’s ire. One such case was dealt with in typical Dracula cruelty. The woman’s breasts were removed, the victim was then skinned and a stake was inserted before raising her upon high in the town square in Tirgoviste as a warning to others not to commit these sins, as he saw them. Amongst other traits, he insisted upon from his subjects, were honesty and hard work. Anyone caught cheating customers in the town's market would be inevitably lifted up alongside the lowly criminals and thieves of the city on a stake for all to see.

Defending Wallachia from the Ottoman Turks was achieved with some success, however, this achievement was pretty short lived. This was due in large part to the fact that he received very little help from his purported Hungarian allies of Christendom. Matthias Corvinus, the son of Janos Hunyadi and now King of Hungary, did little to bolster Vlad’s forces, and his own Wallachian troops had little resources with which to hold back the powerful Turks.

In 1462, Vlad was finally forced to vacate the throne and flee Wallachia by the invading Turks. Vlad’s wife is supposed to have been so frightened at the thought of capture by the invading Ottoman forces that she leapt to her death from the towering heights of Poenari Castle into the Arges river below. Vlad managed to escape the Turks by using a secret passage from his castle, and he fled to the mountainous Transylvanian lands from where he appealed to Corvinus for his aid in ridding his lands of the Ottomans. The king immediately had Vlad arrested on trumped up charges of treasonous acts with the Ottomans and he was imprisoned in the city of Visegrad, Hungary.

How long Vlad was held a prisoner in Hungary is not confirmed, with some Russian literature suggesting it was 12 years. However when Vlad regained the throne of Wallachia in 1476, his eldest son was 10, so it is likely he was granted at least a semblance of freedom by at least 1466, 4 years after he was taken captive. Vlad used his time in captivity to win his way back into Corvinus’s favour. Whilst in Hungary, he also married a member of the royal family, with some reports suggesting this could have been Corvinus’s sister, although it is by no means certain that this was so. He sired 2 sons with his new wife.

Russian literature, which usually runs a favourable narrative of Vlad’s life, suggests that even during his time in Hungarian captivity he could not forego his favourite hobby of torture. He whiled away the hours by capturing birds and mice, which he would proceed to mutilate and torture. Some he would decapitate whilst others were tarred-and-feathered and released. With others, he reverted to his favourite punishment of impalement on little spears he had fashioned.

Meanwhile, back in Wallachia, a new ruler had taken the seat of power. Radu the Handsome, Vlad’s own brother, who had installed a very pro-Ottoman political stance, Of course, this is possibly because it was they who had installed him to the throne.

Matthias Corvinus and the Hungarians obviously didn’t approve of this setup and saw Vlad as the lesser of 2 evils when compared to a pro-Turkish ruler on their border. Whether genuine or not, Vlad converted to Catholicism in a further attempt to appease his captors, which alongside the pressing need to install a more pro-Hungarian ruler to power in Wallachia, led to Vlad’s release in 1476, with the hope of restoring him to the throne of their neighbouring country.

Portrait of Matthias Corvinus

Portrait of Matthias Corvinus

Vlad's Death

By the time Vlad was ready to attempt to regain his seat of power, his brother Radu was already dead. It is likely that he was executed on the orders of Steven III of Moldavia, also known as Steven the Great. Radu was replaced by another member of the old rival Danesti clan, Basarab the Old. On hearing news of Vlad’s oncoming army, combined with the forces of Prince Stephen Bathory of Transylvania approaching, Basarab made no attempt to defend his position and instead fled. Vlad took his old seat again, but soon after Bathory’s men, and the majority of his army left to return to Transylvania leaving Vlad ill-equipped to defend his position in the face of a large Turkish army entering Wallachia. Vlad had to face this huge invading force with less than 4,000 men.

In the ensuing battle with the Turks, Vlad Tepes was inevitably killed. The battle taking place in the December of 1476, near Bucharest. How he was killed is not clear, with some saying he died valiantly in battle amidst his loyal Moldavian troops, Others suggest he may have been assassinated by his old foes, the Wallachian boyars who had conspired against his rule. There is even some suggestion that he was accidentally felled by one of his own troops in the thick of battle at the moment of potential victory. Whatever really happened, it is somewhat fitting that his death is surrounded in as much lore and myth as his life was. Whichever way he ultimately died, the one fact that remains is that his head was severed from his corpse and sent to Sultan Mehmet as proof that his old enemy, Vlad Tepes, the Impaler, Son of the Dragon, was finally defeated and gone for good. It was once suggested that Vlad’s corpse was interred at the island monastery of Snagov, about 30 miles to the north of Bucharest. This claim was disputed and later tests revealed that the tomb was empty and no one knows where the remains of Vlad lie now.

15th and 16th Century Ottoman Empire

Ottoman Empire Expansion 15th & 16th Centuries

Ottoman Empire Expansion 15th & 16th Centuries

Anecdotal Tales From Vlad's Reign

A number of anecdotal stories have arisen which accentuate and extend Vlad’s legend. All of which seem to show his moral expectations of people and the level of cruelty he was willing to bring forth to curb what he saw as their shortcomings:

First and probably most famous, is the legend of the Golden Cup. Vlad Tepes was renowned throughout his dominion for the ferocious demands he placed on his subjects, for honesty and order. Thieves scarcely dared to operate within his borders, for the punishment that awaited such crime was the stake. To reveal the extent to which crime had been all but eradicated from his lands, Dracula placed a golden cup in one of Tirgoviste’s water wells for the people to drink from. The cup remained in place in the town square, untouched for the entirety of Vlad’s regime.

Another concern held by Vlad was that all his subjects should be contributing in some meaningful way or towards the good of the country as a whole. It had come to his attention that there had been a large swelling in the number of vagrants, beggars, crippled and homeless of Wallachia. He put forth a proclamation that they should all descend on to Tirgoviste from across the whole of Wallachia for a great feast he would lay on for them, saying that whilst he had a say in matters, no one should starve under his oversee. As these people descended on the city, they were shown to a great feasting hall within Tirgoviste where they ate and drank their fill the whole evening and into the night. At some point during the proceedings, Vlad took it upon himself to arrive and address these subjects of his and spoke the following words to them; “What else do you desire? Do you want to be without cares, lacking nothing in this world?" Obviously, the crowd of poor and homeless unfortunates were delighted at this prospect and responded in the affirmative. Vlad nodded, walked out of the hall, ordered it locked and set on fire. Never again did those people have to worry about their problems. Explaining his actions, Vlad said that he ordered this action “In order that they represent no further burden to other men and that no one will be poor in my realm."

Two foreign ambassadors are the subject of another anecdotal tale featuring Vlad’s exploits. It has a couple of differences in its narrations, although history books do seem to concur on the main gist of the account. The 2 ambassadors called upon Vlad’s court in Tirgoviste. The court protocol of the day was to remove one's headwear in the presence of the voivode as a mark of respect. However, this particular pair of ambassadors chose not to. Vlad’s considered approach to this breach of protocol and perceived lack of respect to him was to order that their hats be nailed to their heads so that they could never again remove them. Of course, this practice was not completely without precedent and had been done by other princes and monarchs in Eastern Europe. One has to wonder at the decision not to remove a hat in these circumstances.

Tirgoviste was also the scene of another tale concerning Vlad’s heavy-handed approach to dealing with crime. A merchant was visiting the city from a foreign country and, knowing well Vlad’s dislike of dishonesty and the unlikeliness of theft in his capital city, left his handcart containing goods and money, unguarded overnight. Upon returning to his cart the next morning, he was surprised therefore to discover that 160 ducats had disappeared during the night. He sought out Vlad and complained of the theft of his money. Vlad ordered his royal treasury to reimburse the merchant, but to add a single extra ducat to the amount. He then issued a proclamation to his citizens to hand over the thief and ensure the return of the missing money, or he would order the destruction of the city. The next day, the merchant found the money that Vlad had ordered be given to him from his own coffers, on his wagon. He noticed the extra ducat and returned to Vlad to inform him of the discrepancy and return it. Vlad told him that had he not returned this coin, he would have joined the now captured culprit of the theft, on a stake in the town square.

You will remember that on St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1459, Vlad constructed his ‘Forest of the Impaled’ scenario on the outskirts of Brasov, in Transylvania. In the midst of this human torment, stench and death, he invited all the boyars and nobles of the area to dine with him at a feast. In the middle of the feast, Tepes noticed one particular man who was holding his nose whilst eating to try and hide the terrible stench of blood and guts from the impaled people all around the dining table. His response was to have the man raised on a stake even taller than the tallest stake already raised, in order that the man would be above the smell that offended him so.

Vlad, despite his reputation for cruelty, seemed to be no stranger to women. In Tirgoviste he had a mistress who loved him despite his dark and often depressive moods and tried all she could to please the prince. On one particularly moody day, she attempted to cheer him up by telling Vlad Dracula that she was carrying his child. He ordered her to be examined and upon finding that she had tried to deceive him, he took his knife to her and slit her open from groin to breast, leaving her to die in the utmost agony.

In the service of the Hungarian king, Matthias Corvinus was a Polish nobleman called Benedict de Boithor. Benedict visited Vlad at his capital city, Tirgoviste in the September of 1458. One evening during dinner, Vlad had a golden spear placed in front of the visiting noble, who was then asked by Vlad, why he thought the spear had been brought in. The Pole wondered if someone had offended the prince and suggested this may be so. Dracula replied that indeed, the spear had been brought in to honour his distinguished guest. Benedict responded by suggesting that if he had somehow offended the Voivode, that he should do with him as he saw fit, and that if he deserved to die, then so be it. It seems this was the best answer he could have given, as Vlad was pleased and informed his guest that if he had replied any other way, he would have been impaled immediately. Instead of the potential death he had faced down, Benedict was given many gifts.

Two foreign monks were visiting Tirgoviste and visited Vlad’s palace there. Vlad supposedly showed them a whole host of victims on stakes and asked them for their opinions on what they saw. One gave a very sycophantic reply and told him that he was God’s appointment and was here to punish people for their sins. The other monk took the more forthright approach and told Vlad that he was wrong to commit such evil acts on people. According to Romanian legend, Vlad is said to have impaled the sycophant and rewarded the honest brother for his undoubted courage and integrity.

That no one stole the Golden Cup of Tirgoviste shows the fear that Vlad's rule imposed.

That no one stole the Golden Cup of Tirgoviste shows the fear that Vlad's rule imposed.

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