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Everyone has heard of Dracula, by his name of Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, was a member of the House of Drăculești, a branch of the House of Basarab. He was a ruler of Wallachia, in today’s Romania, a great warrior mostly against the Ottoman Turks and he is a National Hero in Roumania. Born: 1431, Sighișoara, Roumania, Died: Bucharest, Roumania, his wife was Ilona Szilágyi (m. ?–1476). His father was Vlad II Dracul, Cneajna of Moldavia. He had two children Mihnea cel Rău, Vlad IV Dracula.

The word Dracul comes from the Military Order bestowed upon him by the King, the order of the Dragon. The European dragon is very different if compared to a Chinese Dragon. In Europe it has wings and legs, where has in China it has no wings and has a different significance.

To this day the family continues and I met some of them while I was on posting in Cairo. Of course they are very much amused by the notoriety brought by the Vampire story and sometimes a little annoyed by it all. For it is a total fantasy, a fabrication. Vlad III Prince of Wallachia was much feared by the Ottoman Turks, he defeated their army and had the prisoners impaled on wooden sticks and left the corpse to rot in the Sun. This is where the whole stick through the heart and much blood comes from, the Turks invented a lot of the story because of Prince Vlad III notoriety as a cruel man to his enemies. Amongst Christian Princes, including the Pope and the King of Hungary, Vlad III was seen as a great man.

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While I was serving in Cairo, I worked closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and this is how I met Prince Dracula and his wife who was Asian. She had a great collection of Swatch Watches, hundreds of them, brand new never used in their original boxes. He was a quiet man of simple taste but she was very much taken with the title and extravagant. I remember she had tons of porcelain dishes of all kinds for great dinner parties all embossed with her husbands Coat of Arms.

One day I was invited for lunch to meet her father in law, the old Prince Dracula, who must have been in his eighties at the time. Very much a Prince of the old School and he spoke to me at length on Protocol in Romania under the Royal Government. Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, despite the heat in Cairo. He was of the school where informal never meant without a tie.  I had been invited to lunch with him because daughter in law could not stand the old man and found him quite boring, so I was there to be the luncheon companion and we could compare notes on Protocol today and yesterday, I did not know very much about Protocol at the Royal Court in Bucharest in the 1930’s. I did know about Queen Marie of Roumania, (1875-1938) who was a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. Queen Marie who was a very intelligent woman, famously said that ”Fashion was for women with no taste and Etiquette for people with no manners”.

Philip_Alexius_de_Laszlo-Queen_Marie_of_Romania,_nee_Princess_Marie_of_Edinburgh

Queen Marie of Romania

So I spent lunch listening to him and trying to answer his rather complicated questions on points of precedence, the ceremonial order to be observed by people of different rank and station determined by legal rules. I also remember him making a point that you could wear a light coloured suit before 3pm but not later in the afternoon. After the take-over of Romania by the Communists in 1945 he had spent much of his life in Exile in Europe, Switzerland, Italy and France. I remember at the end of the luncheon I was given a huge piece of Ricotta cheese to bring home. Of course I did not raise the question of their famous ancestor and the Bram Stoker story that would have been very gauche indeed. I also listened politely to his analysis of the pre-war situation in Roumania with King Carol II, simply agreeing by a ”tout à fait” (indeed) was all that was required. The people you meet sometimes, I never forgot that lunch.

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