Vlad Dracula’s first reign ended ignominiously. He spent some time in Hungarian exile before returning to claim his throne. Wallachia had fallen into disarray, the Ottomans threatened Eastern Europe, Hungary looked to dominate the kingdom, and crime and violence dominated the domestic scene. Vlad used force to bring stability to Wallachia and terror tactics to frighten his enemies at home and abroad.
Dracula used the Hungarian-Ottoman conflict to lead a force into Wallachia to recapture his throne. He defeated Vladislav II in personal combat to establish his dominion. The once and future ruler found Wallachia in disarray. Hungarian and Ottoman predations combined with aristocratic sycophants to destabilize the region.
Once in power, Dracula had to restore order, the economy, and build the kingdom’s defenses. As a result, he limited foreign traders to three towns to spur domestic economic growth. On top of this, he built new villages and fostered agricultural production. Also, Dracula established a militia and peasant army reserve to strengthen the kingdom’s defenses. Mercenaries bolstered these forces.
Most of Vlad the Impaler’s reforms were positive, growth oriented ventures. However, he had a ruthless streak regarding crime and punishment. Dracula blamed the aristocrats for Wallachia’s ills. He believed their intransigence destabilized the country, hurt the economy, led to constant warfare, and crime. Also, he remembered their role in the deaths of his father and brother. As a result, Vlad Dracula transformed into Vlad the Impaler. He executed many aristocrats through impalement. Rumors circulated that he dipped his bread in their blood and feasted as they slowly died.
Dracula’s extreme measures served to frighten his enemies. In 1462, Wallachia routed the Ottomans and Vlad the Impaler claimed to have killed nearly 24,000 Turks. The Ottoman ruler, Mehmet the Conqueror, invaded, but was defeated by Dracula’s new army. Allegedly, Mehmet came across thousands of impalement victims and turned around in disgust. Europe celebrated Vlad the Impaler’s victory over the Muslims.
Vlad’s tactics infuriated the Ottomans and Wallachia’s aristocratic class. The two formed an alliance to overthrow Dracula. The enemy overwhelmed Wallachia forcing Vlad the Impaler to flee to Hungary for help. Hungarian officials weighed the situation and imprisoned Dracula. He remained in jail for a decade.
Vlad the Impaler returned from exile to recapture his birthright. He engaged in many positive reforms in Wallachia. However, he proved brutal toward his enemies. This brutality led to his downfall and imprisonment. However, Dracula would return to rule Wallachia again.