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, recognized his leadership and became part of Wallachia, following his raids on the Ottomans.
Vlad III spent much of his rule campaigning against the Ottoman Empire and its expansion. 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.
It is a reprint of The Ambras Castle portrait of Vlad III, c. 1560, reputedly a copy of an original made during his lifetime.
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