Romanian officials were embroiled in a battle yesterday over who has the right to buy the country’s most popular tourist site, known as Dracula’s Castle, after it went on the market late last year.
Bran Castle, briefly home to Prince Vlad Tepes III, known as Vlad the Impaler and the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, was returned to the Habsburg family last year after being seized by the Communists in 1956.
Within months, Dominic von Habsburg put the castle up for sale for £40 million.
Yesterday councillors in Brasov, central Romania, said they had secured a loan to buy the 14th century Transylvanian castle. But the culture minister, Adrian Iorgulescu, said his ministry had first refusal on the castle under terms agreed when it was returned.
Mr von Habsburg’s lawyer, Corin Trandafir, confirmed that his client had approached Brasov council three weeks ago and the lawyer had helped the council arrange a loan with a Vienna-based bank.
Mr Iorgulescu countered: “The purchase offer is illegal as we have the first refusal. Brasov county council can think about buying the castle only after the culture ministry says it is not interested, and we have not yet even made our offer.”
He said, however, that his ministry was not prepared to pay the £40 million asking price as it was “indecently high and exaggerated compared to the real value of the castle”.
A proper evaluation needed to be made before any sale could be agreed, he added.
Mr von Habsburg, 68, a US-based graphic designer, lived in the castle as a child when it was owned by his grandmother, Romania’s Queen Marie, a grandchild of Queen Victoria.
After the fortress was seized by the communists it was turned into a museum. It is the country’s greatest tourist attraction despite the fact that its links to Prince Vlad Tepes III are tenuous.
It is not known how long he stayed there and whether he was a guest or a prisoner in the castle’s dungeons.
He gained his grisly reputation because of his habit of executing opponents by impaling them on spikes and watching as they slowly bled to death.