Napoleon Bonaparte Having Been Short is a Myth

Today I found out that Napoleon Bonaparte was not in fact especially short.

The myth that he was short stems primarily from the fact that he is listed as 5 feet 2 inches tall at the time of his death.  However, this is 5 feet 2 inches in French units.  In modern international units, he was just shy of 5 feet 7 inches.   Now I know you are saying “well that is still pretty short”.  That is true by modern day standards in certain places in the world, such as the United States.  However, at the time in France, the average height for an adult male was about 5 feet 5 inches in modern international units.  So in fact, he was quite tall for his day.

Despite this fact, Napoleon is primarily remembered for two things; being a master tactician and being short.  The so called “Napoleon Complex” named after him, describes men who have an inferiority complex or more aptly “Short Man Syndrome”.

Interestingly, there is evidence that Napoleon was already considered short at the time of his death, despite being above average height among his fellow Frenchman.  This likely stems from the fact that his personal bodyguards were all very tall and broad; there being height requirements for his guard.  So wherever he went,  people saw him with his guards who were all much bigger than him and thus he looked small in comparison, earning him the nickname “Le Petit Caporel” or in English “The Little Corporal”, though in his day this was typically used as a term of affection for him and not as an insult.

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