Radu cel Frumos

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For the Arabian deity, see Ruda (deity).
Radu cel Frumos
Voivode of Wallachia, Beylerbeyi and Pasha of Wallachia
Radu cel Frumos.jpg
Born 1435
Died 1475
Spouse Maria Despina
Issue Maria Voichiţa
House House of Drăculești (branch of the House of Basarab)
Father Vlad II Dracul
Mother Cneajna of Moldavia
Religion Islam

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 (1435–1475), was the younger brother of Vlad Țepeș and voivode (prince) of the principality of Wallachia. They were both sons of Vlad II Dracul (Dracul: the dragon) and his wife, Princess Cneajna of Moldavia. In addition to Vlad Țepeș, Radu also had two older siblings, Mircea II and Vlad Călugărul, both of whom would also briefly rule Wallachia.[1] Of the four brothers, only Radu converted to Islam and entered Ottoman service.

Life with the Ottomans[edit]

An artistic depiction of Radu from the 19th century.

In 1436, Vlad II Dracul ascended 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, Mehmet II. According to Byzantine Chronicles Radu became Sultan’s lover and male concubine,[2] and thus after the amorous affairs with the sultan, Radu received a nickname “cel frumos” (the Beautiful). Their dangerously passionate relationships were described by Greek chronicler Laonic Chalkokondyles:[3]

"The Emperor had with him the brother of Vlad, son of Dracul, and was his favourite, living with him. And so it happened that when he began to rule, the Emperor wanted to have a relation with this boy that almost killed him. Because he liked the boy, he invited him to parties and raised the cup with lust asking him into his bedchamber. And the boy was taken by surprise to see the Emperor rushing on him for such a thing and stood against it and did not concede to the Emperor’s craving. But the Emperor kissed him against his will and the boy sheathed a dagger and cut the Emperor’s thigh and then ran away. The doctors healed the Emperor’s wound. And the boy climbed a tree nearby and stayed hidden. Only after the Emperor left, the boy descended and walked away and then came back to the court and again he was the Emperor’s favourite."

Vlad on the other hand developed a well-known hatred for Radu and for Mehmet II, who would later become the sultan. Vlad and Radu were later educated in logic, the Quran and the Turkish and Persian language and literature. The boys' father, Vlad Dracul, with the support of the Ottomans, returned to Wallachia and took back his throne from Basarab II.[4]

While Vlad 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 Mehmet 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 Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.

Personal life[edit]

Radu cel Frumos was a well educated, devout Muslim and sought to advance the position of his countrymen within the Ottoman Empire. He was a commander of the Janissary. 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.[5] His daughter was Maria Voichita, 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 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, at the age of 22, became a leading figure at the Ottoman court. He was sent by Mehmed to suppress the rebellion and subdue Anatolia and the border with Persia. He became a successful Janissary commander in the Ottoman Empire. He also served during the Battle of Otlukbeli against Uzun Hassan.

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 Țepeș was an able military commander and now found himself opposing the Ottomans.

However, in 1462 a massive Ottoman army marched against Wallachia, with Radu at the head of the Janissary. Vlad retreated to Transylvania. During his departure, he practised a scorched earth policy, leaving nothing of importance to be used by the pursuing Ottoman army. When the Ottoman forces approached Tirgoviste, 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 and frightened them into retreating.

Vlad 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 sizeable 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.

Radu cel Frumos and his Janissary battalions were given the responsibility of repelling his brother's deadly raids after the Sipahis failed to subdue Vlad.[6] Radu was now given the task of leading the Ottoman Empire to victory. He was positioned north of the Danube, after most of the demoralized Ottoman Turks withdrew. There the brothers, known in Turkish as the Blood Brothers, fought lingering battles. Radu and his Janissary blended into the hinterlands well supplied with gunpowder and a continuous flow of Dinars. Radu had soon gained control of much of the country side.

Radu chased Vlad to his castle north of Curtea de Argeș and, finally, out of the Romania itself, which was incorporated under Ottoman control.[7] Taking advantage of their fortune the Ottomans strengthened their commercial presence in the Danube against any Hungarian influence and intervention in the region.[8]

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 pasha 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 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.


His sudden death at the age of 40 in 1475 triggered the comeback of his brother Vlad III Dracula.

Popular culture[edit]

  • Radu as both historical figure and vampire is the main antagonist of the novel A Sharpness on the Neck, which is a book in The Dracula Sequence by Fred Saberhagen.
  • Radu appears as both Radu Bey and Radu cel Frumos as a character in the book "Stormbringers" by Philippa Gregory.
  • Radu appears in the film Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, played by Michael Sutton.
  • It is revealed in Karl Vincent: Vampire Hunter comic books issue number two and the novel Last Rites: The Return of Sebastian Vasilis that Sebastian Vasilis is actually Radu cel Frumos. He changed his name after being resurrected in 1825 to escape the shadow of his older brother, Vlad Țepeș, Dracula.[9]
  • Radu appears as a character in the Doctor Who audio drama Son of the Dragon, played by Douglas Hodge.
  • Radu features in the first novel of the Cassandra Palmer series by Karen Chance and the Dorina Basarab series, as a slightly effeminate young man.
  • Radu is also present as a vampire in the European comic book I Am Legion.
  • A vampire named Radu Vladislas is the main character in the Subspecies movies, but he is never stated to be Radu cel Frumos (and is unlikely to be, due to his grotesque appearance). His only brother's name is Stefan.
  • Radu is the name of a "Methuselah", a synonym for Vampire, in the manga series Trinity Blood.
  • Radu is played by androgynous model Andrej Pejic in Turkish television series Fatih.
  • Radu Bey is a transmortal villain, one of the two chief antagonists in the fantasy series Ashtown Burials by N.D. Wilson.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Florescu, Radu R. and McNally, Raymond T. (1989). Dracula: Prince of many faces. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-28656-7
  2. ^ Laonicus Chalkondyles Joannes Oporinus, Conrado Clausero 1556,"De origine et rebus gestis Turcorum." "...regis eius concubinus factus est.p.158"
  3. ^ Laonicus Chalkondyles, Conrado Clausero 1556:"De origine et rebus gestis Turcorum" p.158
  4. ^ The Traveler: Ibn Battuta, Saudi Aramco World
  5. ^ George Marcu (coord.), Enciclopedia personalităţilor feminine din România, Editura Meronia, Bucureşti, 2012
  6. ^ Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe, p. 114, at Google Books
  7. ^ The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, p. 1461, at Google Books
  8. ^ An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire, p. 290, at Google Books
  9. ^ "Karl Vincent Vampire Hunter official site". Retrieved 11 March 2013. 

External links[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Vlad the Impaler
Prince of Wallachia
Succeeded by
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Preceded by
Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân
Prince of Wallachia
Prince of Wallachia
Prince of Wallachia