Given his posthumous reputation, it may come as a surprise that Vlad Tepes received a first-class education. Tepes’s early years at Sighisoara were spent making the early preparations for his life as a voivode: how to dress properly, basic courtly manners, and how he ranked amongst his childhood peers. Sighisoara was a female-dominated environment in which the young Tepes was constantly fussed over and was always the centre of attention. There was also a quasi-Spartan emphasis on physical fitness, in which Tepes was expected to spend time outside in storms and ride an unsaddled horse by the age of 5.
The noble children of Sighisoara also learned how to trap hares and spent the summer months slaying eagles with slingshots. However, beyond the formal educative requirements of his childhood, Tepes was also allowed to play with other children, and truancy from lessons was also tolerated. In 1436, when Vlad Tepes was around 8 years old, his father seized the throne of Wallachia, and the family went to live at the palace of Targoviste. There Tepes received a more refined education, learning the finer points of horsemanship, fencing, archery, and court etiquette. By all accounts, he was a fine student.
Tepes’s intellectual education is less well-attested. His first tutor was an elderly knight who taught his pupil Italian, humanities, and world history. Monks also taught him Latin, the Cyrillic script, and Old Church Slavonic. Judging from his method of ruling through terror, it seems likely that he was taught political science, too. No surviving manuscripts of Wallachian political science survive, but the early-16th-century text Teachings of Neagoe Basarab is a compilation of political maxims which match the prevalent 15th-century philosophy of leadership in Wallachia. The Teachings advocate the divine right of sovereigns and the use of terror in successful leadership.
There is a story from Tepes’s childhood at Sighisoara which, if true, casts some light on his later penchant for terror. The house at which Tepes spent his early childhood, which can still be visited by those willing to endure a kitsch restaurant called ‘Case de Dracul’, overlooks the Councilmen’s Square in Sighisoara. There was once a small jail in the square, from which criminals were led to be hanged at Jewelers’ Donjon, and it is recorded that the young Tepes displayed an unusual and morbid curiosity in watching the condemned walk their final steps to meet their fate.