Radu cel Frumos

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Radu cel Frumos
Voivode of Wallachia, Beylerbeyi and Pasha of Wallachia
Radu cel Frumos.jpg
1st reign 1462–1473
Predecessor Vlad the Impaler
Successor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
2nd reign 1473–1474
Predecessor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Successor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
3rd reign 1474
Predecessor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Successor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
4th reign 1474–1475
Predecessor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Successor Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Born 1437/1439
Died 1475
Spouse Maria Despina
Issue Maria Voichița
House Drăculeşti
Father Vlad II Dracul
Mother Cneajna of Moldavia
Religion Orthodox Catholic Church

Radu III the Fair, Radu III the Handsome or Radu III the Beautiful (Romanian: Radu cel Frumos), also known by his Turkish name Radu Bey (1437/1439—1475), was the younger brother of Vlad III and voivode (war-lord or a prince) of the principality of Wallachia. They were both sons of Vlad II Dracul and his wife, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia. In addition to Vlad III, Radu also had two older siblings, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, both of whom would also briefly rule Wallachia.[1]

Life with the Ottomans[edit]

An artistic depiction of Radu from the 19th century.

In 1436, Vlad II Dracul was ascended to the throne of Wallachia. He was ousted in 1442 by rival factions in league with Hungary, but secured Ottoman support for his return by agreeing to pay tribute to the Sultan and also send his two legitimate sons, Vlad III and Radu, to the Ottoman court, to serve as hostages of his loyalty.

The boys were taken to the various garrisons at Edirne. Radu became an intimate friend and a favorite of the sultan's son, Mehmed II. According to Latin translation of Byzantine chronicles Radu was Sultan’s lover and male concubine,[2] and possibly, due to good looks and the amorous affairs with the sultan, Radu received a nickname "cel frumos" (the Beautiful). Their dangerously passionate relationships were described by a Greek chronicler, Laonikos Chalkokondyles, who emphasized that the sultan 'nearly died at the boy's hands' when he tried to force himself upon the young prince. As the records report, the young Sultan (Mehmed II)—wanting to have relations with the prince—called him to feasts and in one instance, passionately offering him a glass, he called him to the bedchamber. When the boy, not suspecting anything from the other came, the Sultan rushed to him; Radu resisted, not submitting to Mehmed II's desire, and then the latter "kissed the boy against his will". Frightened, Radu then pulled out a dagger and cut Mehmed II's thigh and ran away. It is further narrated, that while physicians took care of Mehmed II's wound, the young boy climbed up a tree where he stayed hidden until the sultan left; he later descended from the tree and not long afterwards became the Sultan’s favorite.[3] Chalkokondyles adds that the sultan along with people of his nation had the custom of using favorite boys, and with such as Radu and Mehmed II "spends day and night together".[4] In the beginning of the chronicle it was noted that the incident happened when Mehmed II came to the throne and had to go against the state of Caraman in 1451.[5]

Vlad III, probably on the other hand developed the dislike for Radu and for Mehmed II, who would later become the sultan. Vlad III and Radu were later educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish and Persian language and literature. The boys' father, Vlad II Dracul, with the support of the Ottomans, returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II.[6]

While Vlad III was eventually released to take his place on the Wallachian throne in 1448 after his father was killed by John Hunyadi, Radu converted to Islam and was allowed into the Ottoman imperial court. Radu later participated alongside Mehmed II, now Sultan, in the Ottoman siege which eventually led to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. Radu was allowed to live in the newly built Topkapı Palace in Istanbul.

Personal life[edit]

Radu cel Frumos was a well-educated ruler who sought to advance the position of his countrymen within the Ottoman Empire. His converting to Islam is disputed given his entering in Ottoman service, and the large number of letters he wrote referring to himself as 'Christ-loving' and 'right-faithful'. According to the Serbian Janissary Konstantin Mihailović Radu was a commander of the Janissary; in the campaign against his brother Vlad III, Radu was at the head of 4000 horsemen.[7] He is believed to have taken part in the operations that combined to be known as the Fall of Constantinople.

His wife was Maria Despina, considered to be a Serb or Albanian princess.[8] His daughter was Maria Voichița, who later married Prince Stephen III of Moldavia.

Struggles for the rule of Wallachia[edit]

Writ issued on 14 October 1465 by Radu cel Frumos, from his residence in Bucharest

In November, 1447, John Hunyadi launched an attack against Wallachia due to its alliance with the Ottomans by the treaties signed by Vlad II Dracul and his duplicity in Varna Campaign (1444). Radu's father fled, but Mircea II was captured by boyars from Târgoviște and was blinded with a red-hot poker before being buried alive. A short time after their father was captured and killed by the forces of John Hunyadi, Vlad III was released in 1448 and was the Ottoman Turks' candidate for the throne of Wallachia, the first of a succession of times he would hold the throne, this first time for only a matter of months.

Radu's brother Vlad III later went on to take the throne from Vladislav II in 1456 and began his second reign for which he was to become famous. Like his older brother Mircea II, Vlad III was an able military commander and now found himself opposing the Ottomans.

Radu, at the age of 22, became a leading figure at the Ottoman court. In 1461, Mehmed II began preparing to invade Wallachia. After consulting his astrologers, the thirty year-old sultan resolved to personally lead the punitive expedition. His personal Janissary guard was larger than the entire army of Vlad III. Moreover, it was time for the sultan to show his recognition of his beloved Radu the Handsome, his loyal companion who was now ready to replace his bloodthirsty brother on the throne of Wallachia.[9]

In 1462, a massive Ottoman army marched against Wallachia, with Radu at the head of the Janissary. Vlad III retreated to Transylvania. During his departure, he practiced a scorched earth policy, leaving nothing of importance to be used by the pursuing Ottoman army. When the Ottoman forces approached Târgoviște, they encountered over 20,000 of their kind impaled by the forces of Vlad III, creating a "forest" of dead or dying bodies on stakes. This atrocious, gut-wrenching sight was too much even for them to bear therefore they returned to Ottoman forces to regroup.

Vlad III waged a guerrilla campaign against the Ottoman forces commanded by the Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha in May 1462, pursuing them in their retreat as far as the Danube. On June 16 and 17, he again defeated a sizable Ottoman force in what has become known as The Night Attack, which resulted in heavy casualties to the Ottoman army, as well as logistical losses.

After Mehmed II suffered losses from The Night Attack, Radu and his loyalists campaigned on the Danubian plains for support to replace his brother. It was not difficult to convince them; he only had to promise the boyars that he would restore their privileges and assure the defectors from Vlad III’s camp that they would not be punished. But above and beyond this, he preached of a lasting peace, a gentle reign, and no revenge for any past wrongdoings. Radu sent envoys to the Saxon cities hardest hit by Vlad III, tempting them with old fashioned advantageous trade regulations and vouching for the sanctity of their families. His good nature attracted instant allies, including inhabitants of Bucharest and Târgoviște, who had enough of the cruelty of his brother.

Radu chased Vlad III to his castle north of Curtea de Argeș and, finally, out of the Romania itself, which was incorporated under Ottoman control. Taking advantage of their fortune the Ottomans strengthened their commercial presence in the Danube against any Hungarian influence and intervention in the region.[10]

Meanwhile, his brother Vlad III, due to his harsh policies towards the boyars (whose power struggles he blamed for the state of the realm), was betrayed by them. Vlad III traveled to Hungary to ask for help from his former ally, Matthias Corvinus. But instead of receiving help he found himself arrested and thrown into the dungeon over false charges of treason.

After the victorious campaign north of the Danube the Ottomans placed the young Radu (then 26 years of age) as the Bey of Wallachia. Soon after, the Janissary under his command began attacks and raids on Vlad III's mountain stronghold on the Argeș River, Poenari Castle. During his reign the Ottoman Sipahi's gained a strong foothold in the south of the country.

In 7 March 1471, Radu fought the Battle of Soci against Stephen III, his future son-in-law, for possession of Chilia (now Kiliya in Ukraine).[11] Slavo-Romanian chronicles relate that Stephen III had a "war with Radu voivode for Soci". Stephen III's relationships with Radu were hostile. He invaded Wallachia on several occasions during Radu's reign, dethroning him four times in response to Radu's vassalage.[12]

In 1473, following an agreement with the Ottomans, Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân (Basarab Laiotă the Old) took over the throne. Between 1473 and 1475 Radu briefly returned twice to the throne.


The approximate date of his death is between 1475 to 1477. Different sources relate various dates. Most likely he was executed by Stephen III.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Documenta Romaniae Historica. Seria B Ţara Românească. Volumul 1 1247-1500.
  2. ^ Laonicus Chalkondyles Joannes Oporinus, Conrado Clausero 1556,"De origine et rebus gestis Turcorum." "...regis eius concubinus factus est.p.158"
  3. ^ Laonicus Chalcocondylus, Historiarum Libri X. 499
  4. ^ Laonicus Chalkondyles, Conrado Clausero 1556:"De origine et rebus gestis Turcorum" p.158
  5. ^ Tursun Beg, Tārīh. Historians of the Ottoman Empire. C. Kafadar H. Karate (Meḥmed II’s ascension to the throne in 855/1451. Meḥmed II’s campaign to Qaraman; 855/1451.)
  6. ^ The Traveler: Ibn Battuta, Saudi Aramco World
  7. ^ "Iar fratele lui mergea inaintea noastra" ("Călători străini despre Tările Române" Nicolae Iorga. p. 127, 128)
  8. ^ George Marcu (coord.), Enciclopedia personalităţilor feminine din România, Editura Meronia, Bucureşti, 2012
  9. ^ The Roots of Balkanization: Eastern Europe C.E. 500-1500. By Ion Grumeza
  10. ^ An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, p. 290, at Google Books
  11. ^ George Marcu (coord.), Enciclopedia bătăliilor din istoria românilor, Editura Meronia, Bucureşti, 2011
  12. ^ Stephen the Great and Balkan Nationalism: Moldova and Eastern European History. Jonathan Eagles. I.B.Tauris, 25 October 2013

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