Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476), also known by his patronymic name Dracula (son of the Dragon, after his father Vlad II Dracul), and posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Tepes), was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.
Vlad III is remembered for spending much of his rule defending his country against the Turks. He gained the name Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) because his favourite method of punishing his enemies, impaling on a wooden stake.
Already during his lifetime, his reputation of excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The total number of his victims is estimated in the tens of thousands. Nevertheless, he is credited by historians as a key figure in the evolution of the country’s independence and venerated by Romanians as a national hero.
Wallachia is a province of Romania bordered to the north by Transylvania and Moldavia, to the east by the Black Sea and to the south by Bulgaria. Walachia was founded in 1290 by a Transylvanian named Radu Negru, or Rudolph the Black. It first emerged as a political entity during the late thirteenth century from the fall of the East Roman Empire. The first prince of Wallachia was Basarab the Great (1310-1352), an ancestor of Dracula.
Dracula’s grandfather, Prince Mircea the Old, reigned from 1386 to 1418. However, by the late fifteenth century the House of Basarab had split into two rival clans; the descendants of Prince Dan and those of Prince Mircea the Old (Dracula’s grandfather). Mircea had an illegitimate son, Vlad (the father of Dracula), born around 1390, who was educated in Hungary and Germany. Vlad served as a page for King Sigismund of Hungary, who became the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410. His son, Vlad Tepes (Dracula) was born sometime between 1430 and 1431 in a Transylvanian town called Schassburg (aka Sighisoara).