The cruelties of Vlad

In the 15th century, Prince Vlad reigned over the Romanian province of Wallachia. He had had difficult beginnings. He was a prisoner of the Ottoman court. His father was assassinated, and his brother was turned against him. He was an intelligent, cultured man, he adored music and was an exemplary builder. Palaces and convents are evidence of this. He was a just man, an organiser of the first order. Thanks to him, peace and security reigned in his principality.

And yet, he had countless enemies. Firstly, economic enemies; the Germans who for centuries had occupied Transylvania were of great competition to him. Secondly, the king of Hungary, always ready to expand his territories, but mostly, the Ottoman Turks who, seeing the slightest opportunity, attacked his lands.

His defence against these threats, though he was an exemplary soldier and general of the first order, was to use a weapon of the greatest efficacy: cruelty. He spilled the blood of his enemies without a second thought. Examples of his ferocity were abundant, and were useful in that they instilled fear. One would think twice before attacking.

The Ottoman Sultan, mortal enemy of Vlad

And thus, through his atrocities, he kept his enemies at bay. He had introduced border tariffs to stop the German merchants of Transylvania from taking over his economy. The merchants, outraged and hit hard in the pocket, spread horrid lies about Vlad. They even dictated a litany to their scribes that made of him a much crueller monster than he was, one who revelled in the blood of his enemies.

The king of Hungary needed a scapegoat at the time. Indeed, he had made personal use of funds given to him by the pope to finance a new crusade. So, who was to become responsible for this sinful theft? None other than Vlad, already the terror of the region. And so, the king of Hungary in turn charged his scribes to write a litany of unimaginable horrors committed by Vlad; the streams of blood he spilled and the thousands of executions ordered by this drinker of blood.

Romania, time lords and dressed like Vlad

Time went on. In the 19th century, while visiting the Balkans, the author Bram Stoker happens upon the accounts written by the German merchants’ scribes and those of the king of Hungary. He discovers the Vlad that they had created. What a marvellous subject, he thought. And that is how he came up with the story of Dracula.

This Dracula, in modern-day Romania, has two roles. He is one of the country’s major tourist attractions, his presumed place of residence visited by thousands of tourists. Everywhere you look, there is Dracula’s hotel, Dracula’s house, the castle of Dracula, the vampire’s camping site, and so on. But also, in the hearts of Romanians, he remains a national hero that valiantly and triumphantly battled against the inherited Turkish enemy.

by  Prince Michael of Greece