Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anniversary: Dracula

On this day in 1476 Vlad III of Wallachia reclaimed the Wallachian throne for the third and final time. Wallachia is a historical region of southern Romania. Vlad III was infamous in his time for his cruelty as Vlad the Impaler and is most famous now as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's vampire Count Dracula in the 1897 novel Dracula. The name Dracula comes from his father Vlad Dracul ("Vlad the Dragon") who belonged to the chivalric Order of the Dragon, established by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund.

Vlad III led a life of near constant political contest and war - his father assassinated, he exiled and imprisoned, gaining and losing the crown, finally killed in battle with the Ottoman Empire. Vlad's cruelty quickly became legend as stories of his joy in dining among the impaled and nailing hats to his visitors' heads (when they neglected to deferentially remove them) spread and were passed down.

It's worth remembering that the Holy Roman Empire continued until the Napoleonic Wars when, across the ocean, Thomas Jefferson was President of the fledgling United States of America. And the Ottoman Empire, responsible for Vlad's death, didn't end until its formal partition after World War I. The world is small and history short, indeed.

(image credit: portrait of Vlad, c. 1560)