This section owes much to Dracula researchers Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally, whose wonderful books IN SEARCH OF DRACULA and DRACULA: PRINCE OF MANY FACES were primary resources in the creation of the FAMILY DRACUL novels.
In addition to his title of "Impaler," Vlad was also known as "Dracula," which means "son of the Dragon." Originally, this title came about because his father (also named Vlad) belonged to the Order of the Dragon, an order formed by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund for the purpose of defeating the Turks. The elder Vlad used the dragon symbol on his coins and went by the name "Dracul" ("dragon" or "devil"). Hence the diminutive "-a" on his son's name, Dracula. As the younger Vlad's talent for torture became known, however, the name Dracula came to be interpreted more and more as the sinister "son of the devil."
At the same time that Vlad became notorious for his sadism, he was also respected by his subjects because of his fierce campaigns against the Turks. He was a respected as a warrior and stern ruler (no kidding!) who tolerated no crime against his people, and during his reign erected several monasteries. However, despite Vlad's political ambition, the turbulent political atmosphere of the times took its toll on his reign. He was overthrown twice (he ruled for a brief period in 1448, again from 1456-1462, and for only a matter of weeks in the year of his death, 1476.) Ultimately, Dracula died violently (according to rumor, at the hands of one of his men who was actually a Turkish spy). He was buried at one of the monasteries he patronized, on the island at Snagov.
Contrary to popular belief, Dracula's castle does not exist in Transylvania; the crumbling ruins still stand in the northern Wallachian town of Tirgoviste.