Tirgoviste “Princely Court” - Vlad the Impaler’s palace.
A statue of Vlad the Impaler in Tirgoviste, Romania.
Vlad the Impaler, the historical Dracula, first moved to Tirgoviste in 1436 when his father, Vlad Dracul, became the prince of Wallachia. He lived there only six years before he was sent to live among the Turks as a hostage to ensure his father’s goodwill toward the Ottoman Empire. Vlad returned to Tirgoviste for a brief month in October 1448, when he attempted to assume the throne following the death of his father. He was driven from Tirgoviste by Vladislav II and fled to Moldavia. It was not until Vladislav turned on his Hungarian sponsors and fought against John Hunyadi that Vlad became the Hungarian candidate to hold the throne. He again took up residence in his childhood home in the spring of 1456.
Vlad would rule only six years, but he filled those years with a lifetime of adventure and earned his title, Tepes, or “the Impaler.” The yard in front of the palace became the site of numerous executions by impalement. Vlad had the Chinda (Sunset) Tower built adjacent to the palace to provide an observation post for viewing the work of the executioners. The first notable event of his brief reign probably occurred on Easter of 1459. He invited the many boyars (feudal land owners) to an Easter feast. After they spent the day eating and drinking, Vlad had his soldiers surround the palace, and he arrested the boyars and their families. The elders were immediately killed, but the remainder were marched away to Curtea de Arges to build Vlad’s mountain castle.
Vlad’s six years of rule culminated at the gates of Tirgoviste in June 1462. For two months, he had fought a losing battle across Wallachia. The Turkish army, led by Mohammed II (1432–1481), arrived at Tirgoviste only to find the impaled bodies of all the Turks who had been taken prisoner. Mohammed II turned back and returned to Adrianople. Vlad followed the retreating army and constantly harassed it. However, Mohammed II gave his army to Vlad’s brother Radu cel Frumos who had gained the support of the remaining boyars. Radu chased Vlad to his castle north of Curtea de Arges and, finally, out of the country.
Vlad lived as a prisoner of the Hungarians for more than a decade. He gradually gained the support of King Matthias for his return to the Wallachian’s throne. Vlad returned to Tirgoviste in 1476. His stay was short. He moved on to Bucharest just one week later. In December of that year, the Turkish army attacked and the boyars turned on Vlad and killed him. The exact fate of his body is unknown. Tirgoviste remained the capital of Wallachia until 1660 when it was officially relocated to Bucharest. In the 1990s, it began to develop as a tourist site. Vlad’s Tower has been opened as a museum, and visitors may wander through the palace grounds. Statues of Vlad may be found in nearby parks.
Sources: Florescu, Radu, and Raymond T. McNally. Dracula: A Biography of Vlad the Impaler, 1413–1476. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973. 239 pp. ———. Dracula: Prince of Many Faces: His Life and Times. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989. 261 pp. Mackenzie, Andrew. Dracula Country. London: Arthur Barker, 1977. 176 pp. Treptow, Kurt W., ed. Dracula: Essays on the Life and Times of Vlad Tepes. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. 336 pp.