Rumanian nobleman and warrior (1431-1476). The second son of Vlad Dracul, Prince of Wallachia, and Princess Cneanja of Moldavia, he and his younger brother Radu were taken as hostages by the Turkish ruler Sultan Murad when he was only 11 years old. He was educated in the Turkish court, but he was under constant threat of death, torture, or mutilation. After serving briefly in the Turkish army, Vlad went into exile in Moldavia, where he involved himself in Wallachian politics. He was made prince of Wallachia in 1456.
As prince, he was notorious for his cruelty. After he was crowned, he had all the old boyars executed and replaced them with newly ennobled peasants. When two Italian envoys failed to remove their skullcaps before him, he had the caps nailed to their heads. His preferred method of execution was impalement -- it was this practice that earned him the nickname "Tepes" (pronounced "Tseh-pesh"), or "the Impaler". When the Turks invaded Wallachia, Vlad erected the "forest of the impaled" -- thousands of Turkish captives impaled on stakes along the main invasion route.
The Turks sent Vlad's brother Radu against him, and the people supported Radu's invasion, more terrified of Vlad than of the Turks. Vlad fled to Hungary, but he was taken prisoner by the Hungarian king, and Radu was recognized as the ruler of Wallachia.
Vlad regained his freedom after Radu died in 1475 and was sent back to battle his cousin, Stephen of Moldavia. He converted to Roman Catholicism and married a Hungarian princess. Soon afterward, he died mysteriously; two monks found his headless body in a marsh after a battle.
It is estimated that Vlad killed between 40,000 and 100,000 of his countrymen during his time as prince. Despite this, he is still revered in Romania as a national hero for his bravery against the Turks.
He is best known as the model for the vampire in Bram Stoker's horror novel "Dracula".
Research from GURPS Who's Who, compiled by Phil Masters, "Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler)" by William H. Stoddard, pp. 56-57.