Ilona Szilágyi – Vlad the Impaler’s wife

Ilona Szilágyi
Ilona as portrayed by Jessica De Gouw in Dracula (2013)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

Ilona Szilágyi has largely been overshadowed by her illustrious husband Vlad the Impaler. So much attention has been focused on Vlad that we hardly know much about Ilona. We don’t know much about her life or even how she died.

Ilona was the daughter of a nobleman. Her cousin was King Matthias Corvinus, the king of Hungary.[1] It was during Vlad the Impaler’s years of captivity that she met Vlad, Prince of Wallachia. Vlad had been married before to the daughter of a Romanian noble.[2] His first wife had given birth to a son named Mihnea, who later earned himself the nickname Mihnea the Evil.[3] 

Vlad had been at war with the Turks. But, even though he had won many battles with the Turks, he was very unpopular with his people. The nobles decided to support Vlad’s younger brother Radu the Handsome as their prince instead. In order to get Vlad out of the way, Radu struck a bargain with King Matthias to take Vlad as a hostage. While Vlad was imprisoned, Radu decided to take control of Vlad’s castle, Poienari, in the spring of 1462. When Vlad’s first wife learned of Radu’s approach, she decided to commit suicide by jumping out of the tower, and her body landed in the Arges River. Legends claimed that she said she “would rather have her body rot and be eaten by the fish of the Argeş than be led into captivity by the Turks.” [4] 

The death of his first wife left Vlad to marry again. However, it did not stop him from taking mistresses during his captivity. One of his mistresses was very unlucky. It was said that Vlad ripped her body open to disprove her pregnancy.[5] During his four year captivity, King Matthias chose to make a deal with Vlad to get his freedom back. Vlad would have to convert to Catholicism and marry a member of the Hungarian royal family.[6] Vlad agreed to this deal. It is not known what Ilona must have thought about marrying Vlad the Impaler. One version does claim that she was in love with him, for it said “Vlad ‘caught the eye’ of Ilona”.[7]

Marriage to Ilona granted him his freedom. He was released in 1474 and converted to Catholicism in 1475.[8] They settled in Buda where they lived in a lavish palace. Ilona gave birth to two sons. The first was Vlad. The second son’s name was unknown.[9] 

However, their idyll time in Buda did not last long. In 1476, Vlad led a war against the Turks along with King Matthias and Vlad’s cousin, Stephen, the prince of Moldavia.[10] It was said that Vlad’s marriage to Ilona did nothing to diminish his ruthlessness. According to Nicolas of Modrussa, a papal envoy in Budapest, Vlad “tore the limbs off the Turkish prisoners and placed their parts on stakes”.[11] Vlad won the war with the Turks and was triumphant. He believed that since he conquered the Turks, he could now regain his position as Prince of Wallachia.[12] His brother Radu was now dead, and the current prince of Wallachia was an Ottoman supporter named Basarab Laiota. In November of 1475, Basarab Laiota and Vlad battled each other for the prince title.[13] Vlad won, and Ilona was now the Princess of Wallachia.

However, Ilona’s position as Princess Consort of Wallachia did not last long. On December 14, 1476, Vlad was killed in a skirmish with Basarab’s army near Bucharest.[14] He was forty-five. It is uncertain what had happened to Ilona after Vlad the Impaler’s death. Some historians believe that Ilona remained in her home in Pest.[15] Her step-son, Mihnea, became Prince of Wallachia from 1508-1509. He was very unpopular. He was assassinated on March 12, 1510.[16] Ilona’s first son, Vlad, served in the household of King Matthias. Her other son was sent to serve under the Bishop of Oradea, but quickly became ill. He was sent home to his mother where he died shortly afterwards.[17] We do not know when Ilona died, but many historians believe that she was buried in the tomb of Snagov.[18] 

In the end, not much is known for certain about the woman who was married to such an infamous ruler. She was by his side towards the end of his years. Even though we only know of a few facts of her life, it is obvious that she had a fascinating story. She has been largely forgotten in history. Perhaps one day, historians may give her the treatment she deserves.


Carroll, Leslie. Royal Pains: A Rogues’ Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds. New American

     Library, 2011.

Gibson, Dirk Cameron. Legends, Monsters, or Serial Murderers?:The Real Story behind an

     an Ancient Crime. Praeger/ABC-Clio, 2012.

Trow, M. J. Vlad the Impaler: In Search of the Real Dracula. Sutton Publishing, 2004.

“Vlad III the Impaler.” New World Encyclopedia, New World Encyclopedia, 5 Oct. 2017,

[1] Trow p. 311

[2] Gibson p. 95

[3] Caroll p. 51

[4] “Vlad III The Impaler”, para. 22

[5] Trow, p. 252

[6] Trow p. 311

[7] Gibson p. 95

[8]Gibson p. 85

[9] Caroll p. 51

[10] Caroll p. 51

[11] Carroll pp. 51-52

[12] Caroll p. 52

[13] Caroll p. 52

[14] Caroll p. 52

[15] Caroll p. 54

[16] Caroll p. 54

[17] Caroll p. 54

[18] Caroll p. 54

About Lauralee Jacks 189 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!


    • There is many debate about him being an Orthodox Christian. Some historians say he was not an Orthodox. Read the book by M.J. Trow, who states that “Vlad had no religion and had no faith.”p. 33 Even if he was a Christian, he was not a very good one. He was atheist in the modern term.

      • That’s interesting, because everything I’ve read so far talks about how Vlad was a crusader–literally–against the Turks, to keep them from conquering Christian Europe. He would have to have been Christian in one form or another to do that, even if he was one in name only. So the original statement, “Vlad would have to convert to Christianity,” is inaccurate. But, “Vlad would have to convert to Catholicism,” makes more sense.

        I haven’t gotten to the Trow book yet, but it’s been on my list. Looking forward to it 🙂

        • Another source, claims he was forced to convert to Islam during his first campaign with the Turks (Cazacu p. 67 of Dracula) So it is a debate on whether he was a Christian or not. So if he did convert to Muslim, he still had to convert to Christianity. Thus, there is a debate on historians on whether he was an Orthodox Christian or a converted Muslim before he converted to Catholicism.

  1. I usually read your stories with great interest, but here You have two mistakes. First, you imply he was not a Christian, becoming one after converting to Catholicism. He has an Orthodox Christian, like the Greeks or Russian. Secondly, you call Basarab Laiotă an Ottoman (??). He has a Wallachian nobleman of royal lineage with Ottoman support for his claim to the throne. The two powers were continuously battling for control over the principality of Walachia. Thank you.

  2. You say Vlad was imprisoned for four years and was married to Ilona after he was released. As He was incarcerated in the dungeon from 1462 -1466, They could of married as early as 1466 /7. This is important, because there is a story that Vlad his son was known as Vlad Tepesya (Vlad the little impaler) and that he attempted to gain the Wallachian throne in about 1481 and was killed. If Vlad were born in say 1467 /68 he would of been about 13 or14.

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