The Truth About Vlad The Impaler's Wife

Vlad III has long been associated with the bloodthirsty Dracula, and even if Bram Stoker didn't actually base the vampire off this 15th-century monarch, Vlad was definitely one bad dude. He was the prince of Wallachia — a small fiefdom in central Romania — and was a cousin by marriage to Matthias Corvinus, the king of Hungary. He was also the proud owner of one of history's most grisly monikers: Vlad the Impaler.

He came by the name honestly. Although Vlad never drank blood (as far as we know), he was infamous for impaling Saxon traders on giant wooden stakes and posting them in front of his estates. A bit tacky as far as lawn ornaments go, but slightly more intimidating than a small community of garden gnomes or a flock of pink flamingos. Vlad also deployed his impaling hobby to deter Ottoman incursions into his homeland. One account has him attacking the Turks and then writing, "I have killed peasants, men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea. ... We killed 23,884 Turks, without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers."

So yeah, that's a pretty high body count right there. But all this butchery begs an important question. What poor woman had to marry this guy?

Vlad the Impaler got married to get out of jail

Ilona Szilagyi was actually Vlad the Impaler's second wife, after his first (of whom very little is known) died by suicide to avoid being taken by Vlad's usurping brother, Radu. Ilona (or Mrs. Impaler) was the daughter of a Romanian noblewoman. She met Vlad during his years of captivity, after he was temporarily imprisoned by King Corvinus. Upon marrying Vlad, she became stepmother to the prince's son by his first wife. That young man was named Mihnea, but he went by the equally descriptive nom de guerre of Mihnea the Evil. Nice family.

Some historians claim that Ilona was truly in love with Vlad, but the historical record is clear: She had to wed him as a condition of his release. In order for Vlad to secure his freedom, he had to convert to Catholicism and marry a Hungarian noblewoman. Ilona became that noblewoman. They were married in 1474, and Vlad converted in 1475.

Vlad's wife was briefly princess of Wallachia

According to History of Royal Women, Ilona bore Vlad two children — two little impalers — the first of whom was also named Vlad. And after her husband won a war for his brother's estates against the warlord Basarab Laiota, Ilona became the princess of Wallachia. Her time in power didn't last long, however. Her husband was killed in battle in 1476, and though her stepson succeeded him, he suffered from low approval ratings and was ultimately assassinated in 1510. It's thought that Ilona likely escaped to her home city in Pest to live out her years. Her oldest son, little Vlad, returned to the household of King Corvinus in Hungary to serve.

Ilona Szilagyi's later years are shrouded in mystery, but one thing is known with certainty: She never got a nickname.