Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends, by E.B. Mawr, , at sacred-texts.com
MODERN history presents no greater catastrophe, nor one more nobly endured than that of the death of Brancovan. Already this Prince had reigned twenty-five years; an unparallelled event in Wallachian history.
Under this long reign, great ameliorations had been made in every branch of the administration. Laws were regarded, order and security exercised a salutary influence, agriculture flourished, commerce prospered; luxury was introduced in the towns, comfort in the country, magnificence at Court. Added to this material prosperity, was joined the elements of intellectual culture.
From the commencement of his reign, Brancovan, seeing the rising tide of Ottoman oppression submerge, one by one, the last traces of Roumanian independence, meditated, like some of his illustrious predecessors, the absolute freedom of his country.
On the other hand the Sultans, their Viziers, and their minions, contemplated its complete subjugation, in order to profit without obstacle or control, by "the garden and granary of Stamboul."
Both the intelligence and the resources of Brancovan were equal to the great work which he projected. Knowing thoroughly the character of the Turk, possessing immense wealth, wisely accumulated from year to year, notwithstanding the extortions, and the endless exactions of the Suzerain Power, politician enough to interest both the Empire and Russia in his cause, he could, according to all the rules of human prudence, calculate on success. Unhappily, circumstances were against him. The peace of Karlovitz, rendered help from the Empire hopeless, so he looked with confidence towards Russia, which Peter the Great was then making celebrated in Europe; but the jealousy of Cantimir, Prince of Moldavia, and the treaty of the Pruth, broke down all his clever combinations.
The Sublime Porte, informed by its spies of what was taking place at Bucharest, and of the projects of Brancovan, resolved to depose him, to seize his person, and to have him brought to Constantinople, to do with him according to its pleasure. But Brancovan was so rich, that his gold made him
friends even in the heart of the Divan; he sent the Viziers, the Sultan even, such magnificent presents, that they postponed his ruin.
He believed he had surmounted the danger, and credulous in his good fortune, like many other successful men, he remained deaf to the warnings of his friends, the entreaties of his family, even to the presentiments of one of his daughters, who, dying in the flower of her age, before expiring, had the frightful vision of the martyrdom of her father and brothers.
Accusations arriving from Bucharest, complaints covered with false Signatures, hurried on the catastrophe. On March 22, 1714, Capidji Moustafa Aga arrived at Bucharest, bearing the firman of dethronement. He was introduced into the palace with an escort of twelve Tchohodars, secretly armed, with poignards and pistols, and solemnly deposed Brancovan in the throne room, throwing upon his shoulders the black veil, and pronouncing the terrible word Mazil (deposed).
The Turkish Envoy set off again quickly for Constantinople, taking with him, as prisoners, Constantin Brancovan and his family.
On his arrival at Stamboul, the captives were conducted to the castle of the seven towers, a state
prison celebrated in Turkish annals for the multitude of its bloody tragedies. It was the threshold of agony, and agony did not keep them long in waiting.
The Sultan, Achmet III. himself presided at the slaughter, and the unfortunate Brancovan, his soul elevated by the sublimest Christian sentiments, washed, with his blood, any stains that might have been in his life.
By a refinement of savage cruelty, after having tortured the father in the presence of his children, before the father's eyes they cut off the heads, one by one, of his four sons. Each time that the head of these young Princes fell, the Sultan offered to pardon Brancovan, if he would embrace Mahometanism; the heroic father pointed towards heaven, and the slaughter continued. When Brancovan's turn arrived to lay his head on the block, he said with resignation: "If my death comes from God, as a punishment for my sins, His will be done; if it comes from my enemies, may Heaven forgive them." And, deaf to the voice of the Sultan, who still bade him deny his Christ, and with eyes raised to heaven, stood still as a statue! Achmet gave a sign, bright steel glimmered, a jet of blood covered the wall, and the soul of the good old. man had rejoined those of his sons.
There remained yet a sixth victim--a poor little child, the only grandson of Brancovan. Mad with terror, the child hid himself in the Caftan of Bostandjibachi, who, overwhelmed with benefits by the murdered Princes, much against his will, had been forced to be present at all these atrocities.
He had the hardihood to take the boy in his arms, and to cast an imploring look at the Sultan. The ferocious Achmet, regarding the child, and then the five corpses, made a sign of pardon, and so the last heir of this illustrious family was saved.
The heads of the five martyrs, stuck on lances, were carried about in the streets of Stamboul, preceded by heralds, crying, "this is the end of traitors." Their bodies were thrown into the sea, but at nightfall some Christian boatmen drew them out, and they were piously buried in a little Island in the Sea of Marmora.
The domains of Brancovan were confiscated, and his almost fabulous riches were shared between the Sultan, and the instigators of his ruin.
This touching and terrible catastrophe, made a profound impression not only in Wallachia and Moldavia, but throughout Europe. Transmitted from generation to generation, it has passed from history to legend, which is recounted from the Danube
to the Carpathians, in cities and in villages, and at the modest firesides of the Roumanian peasants. The native poet, Alexandri, has made it the subject of one of his most beautiful and touching ballads.