Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476), was a member of the House of Drăculești, a branch of the House of Basarab, also known by his patronymic name: Dracula. He was posthumously dubbed Vlad the Impaler, and was a three-time Voivode of Wallachia, ruling mainly from 1456 to 1462, the period of the incipient Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. His father, Vlad II Dracul, was a member of the Order of the Dragon, which was founded to protect Christianity in Eastern Europe. Vlad III is revered as a hero in Bulgaria as well for his protection of the Bulgarian population both south and north of the Danube. A significant number of Bulgarian common folk and remaining boyars (nobles) moved north of the Danube to Wallachia, recognized his leadership and settled there following his raids on the Ottomans.
As the cognomen ‘The Impaler’ suggests, his practice of impaling his enemies is central to his historical reputation. During his lifetime, his reputation for excessive cruelty spread abroad, to Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The total number of his victims is estimated in the tens of thousands. The name of the vampire Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula was inspired by Vlad’s patronymic.
After Radu’s sudden death in 1475, Vlad III declared his third reign in 26 November 1476. Vlad began preparations for the reconquest of Wallachia in 1476 with Hungarian support. Vlad’s third reign had lasted little more than two months when he was assassinated. The exact date of his death is unknown, presumably the end of December 1476, but it is known that he was dead by 10 January 1477. The exact location of his death is also unknown, but it would have been somewhere along the road between Bucharest and Giurgiu. Vlad’s head was taken to Constantinople as a trophy, and his body was buried unceremoniously by his rival, Basarab Laiota, possibly at Comana, a monastery founded by Vlad in 1461. The Comana monastery was demolished and rebuilt from scratch in 1589.