Yes Count Dracula was almost “Count Wampyr”. It is difficult to conceive that we might be calling the most famous vampire in history “Wampyr”. It just does not have the ring of stability to it, therefore “Wampyr” might not have become legendary.
This possible legend in the making took an advantageous turn during the summer of 1890 while Stoker was on holiday in Whitby. On a visit to the local Public Library Stoker consulted William Wilkinson’s An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (1820). The following passage was of interest:
Wallachia continued to pay it [tribute] until the year 1444; when Ladislas King of Hungary, preparing to make war against the Turks, engaged the Voivode DRACULA to form an alliance with him. The Hungarian troops marched through the principality and were joined by four thousand Wallachians under the command of DRACULA’s son.
The Hungarians being defeated at the celebrated battle of Varna, Hunniades their general, and regent of the Kingdom during Ladislas’s minority, returned in haste to make new preparations for carrying on the war. But the Voivode, fearful of the Sultan’s vengeance, arrested and kept him prisoner during a year, pretending thereby to show to the Turks that he treated him as an enemy. The moment Hunniades reached Hungary, he assembled an army and placed himself at the head of it, returned to Wallachia, attacked and defeated the Voivodate, and caused him to be beheaded in his presence; after which he raised to the Voivodate one of the primates of the country, and the name of Dan.
The Wallachians under this Voivode joined again the Hungarians in 1448, and made war on Turkey; but being totally defeated at the battle of Cossova, in Bulgaria, and finding it no longer possible to make any stand against the Turks, they submitted again to the annual tribute, which they paid until the year 1460, when the Sultan Mahomet II, being occupied in completing the conquest of the islands in the Archipelago, afforded them a new opportunity of shaking off the yoke. Their Voivode, also named DRACULA*, did not remain satisfied with mere prudent measures of defence: with an army he crossed the Danube and attacked the few Turkish troops that were stationed in his neighbourhood; but this attempt, like those of his predecessors, was only attended with momentary success. Mahomet having turned his arms against him, drove him back to Wallachia, wither he pursued and defeated him. The Voivode escaped into Hungary, and the Sultan caused his brother Bladus to be named in his place. He made a treaty with Bladus, by which he bound the Wallachians to perpetual tribute; and laid the foundations of that slavery, from which no efforts have yet had the power of extricating them with any lasting efficacy.
This is the only verified source that Stoker consulted about the historical Dracula, or as we know him Vlad the Impaler. In the Wallachian language Dracula means Devil. In his “Historiae Personae” listing of characters for his novel Stoker writes “Dracula” several times as if to see how it “feels” and looks on paper – see note here. The rest is history and the line now reads ”I am Dracula; and I bid you welcome…”
Here is the “real” Dracula (1431-1476):
A Woodcut showing his impaling skills:
Vlad’s Pad, Castle Dracula: