Mr. Dracula. Bob Dracula. Jim Dracula.
No, they just don’t quite have the same ring as the name we all know and love: Count Dracula. For the countless numbers of us who’ve grown up simply taking it for granted that someone would come dressed as Count Dracula on Halloween, we’ve not necessarily considered the blindingly obvious fact that this particular spooky character is an aristocrat. With the possible exception of the Egyptian Mummy’s royal credentials, there are surely no other equivalently noble members of the trick-or-treating party; no Sir Ghost, no Duchess Pumpkin, no Lord Skeleton. The character of Count Dracula occupies a uniquely distinguished position in the whole ghoulish cast.
Ever since the first appearance of the character of Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel of 1897, representations of vampires in popular culture have been notable for their air of distinction or high pedigree. Think of those in the hugely successful Twilight series of books and films: there, the vampires are lofty and eloquent, with ancient traditions and codes of honourable conduct. Those of us with a few more years on the clock might recall that even the vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer were full of airs and graces, and had strangely Euro-centric aristocratic roots. It seems that there is something about the blood-sucking immortals that is inextricably linked with noble breeding; thus the impossibility of a ‘Keith Dracula’. What’s surprising is that there is actually a historical basis for these oddly high-brow associations.
Dracula: Revolting Roots
Although Bram Stoker can be credited for inventing Dracula as we know him, he can’t lay claim to being the originator of the story itself. In fact, this stems from Romanian legends about the historical ruler Vlad III, better known as Vlad the Impaler. Born – probably – in 1431 in Transylvania (hence the connection in later stories with that Romanian region), this scion of a principality under both Hungarian and Ottoman influences acquired the nickname ‘Dracula’, after his father was made a member of an honourable Order of the Dragon: in Romanian, ‘drăcula’ means ‘son of the dragon’.
It so happens that the root word ‘drac’ also means ‘devil’, thus strengthening the associations with dark forces. This link is further enhanced by historians’ claim that the young prince practiced the art of alchemy – basically, an attempt to transform base substances into gold (a since discredited field of study). Many rulers at the time were interested in harnessing the powers said to lie in the ‘philosopher’s stone’. It could be that the young Vlad’s time as a prisoner of the Turks increased the superstitious belief that he had acquired occult, un-Christian powers.
What really fuelled the legends, though, was Vlad III’s reputation for bloodthirstiness in prosecuting his enemies. With a likely basis in fact, it became widely said that Vlad’s favourite method of killing foes was by impaling them on stakes; it was even rumoured that he would dine contentedly amidst the corpses of his victims. All in all, the bizarre reputation of this ruler certainly gave rise to what would later become the idea of an aristocratic Romanian blood-sucker.
The Royal Lust for Gold
Curiously enough, the obsession with alchemy and ‘magic’ seems to have been a trait that numerous royals have had in common. One of the strangest examples is that of Frederick I of Prussia (1657–1713), whose desire for the alchemists’ supposed key to endless gold was so fervent that he placed into ‘protective custody’ – or house arrest – the most famous alchemist in his kingdom, Johann Friedrich Böttger. Whilst Böttger didn’t succeed in making gold, he did manage to create porcelain, which, at the time, was almost as valuable.
An earlier German monarch, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, had even built his own personal laboratory in his quest to find the philosopher’s stone. Over in Britain at the turn of the 17th century, King James I was pursuing not only an active interest in alchemy but an even more vigorous interest in the practices of witchcraft. Indeed, he became a genuine authority on the topic (in the rather narrow sense that one can be an authority on something which doesn’t exist), producing a treatise on witchcraft that would prove influential for a long time. He went so far as to personally interview accused ‘witches’ before they were executed, believing that they had cast spells in order to end his life prematurely.
Whilst numerous cases exist of aristocratic flirtations with the occult though, it’s surely the legend of Count Dracula that takes prominence. There’s something universally charming about his smart attire, his impeccable manners, his clipped accent, his grand castle, and his various other trappings; all somehow seductive, even if the ultimate result was his sharp teeth in your neck. There are those of us who rather fancy the idea of being Counts or Countesses ourselves…
Count your Blessings
Luckily, it’s totally doable, thanks to the likes of royaltitles.net, which gives you the chance to purchase a legally legitimate aristocratic title of your choosing. For under two hundred euros, you can obtain a title such as ‘Count’ which you are thenceforth able to add to driving licences, credit cards, passports, and so on. What’s more, it’s hereditary, meaning it can be passed on to a person of your choosing, should you wish. An information pack includes a history of the Grand Duchy of Pomerania and Livonia, as well as a chivalric medal, special coins, and documents of proof. Now’s your chance to be a Count!