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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  • Wow! Okay, this one shocked me. Thanks for ruining all the lies from my past teachers.

  • Actually, it was “Le petit caporAl”, not “caporEl” :)

  • Informative post! I might actually listen to what you are saying. For the most part most of your blog is extreme… I am getting into it. I have a Political News Blog site of my own at White Rabbit Cult… I will place a link back to your post. Regards!

  • I know French stuff isn’t you English people’s forte, this pervasive myth being an example, but you might want to know it’s spelled “caporal”, by the way. :)

  • why is his being short or tall an issue?????????

  • From the way I understood it, in British inches he measured short, because British inches were bigger than French inches (which are what we use today). The British perpetuated the myth that he was short as a way to undermine him.

  • I just finished reading memoirs of Ukranian anarchist general Nestor Makhno. He was 1.59 m tall and as skinny as a shaven rat. I decided to search the Net to find somebody even shortet. But all the usual suspects Napoleon, T.E. Lawrence, Goebbels were all taller. Alexander was pretty small but nobody knows his exact height and I doubt he would have allowed to be measured. Any ideas?

  • He’s still shaped like a gourd.

  • The Napoleon Complex has been debunked. Here are the results of an aggression experiment with tall and small men:

    “The results were consistent with the view that small man syndrome is a myth. When people see a short man being aggressive, they are likely to think it is due to his size, simply because that attribute is obvious and grabs their attention.” said lead researcher Dr Mike Eslea, the psychologist from the University.

    “But really it makes no more sense to say that, for example, Dennis Wise, (ex- footballer), is aggressive because he is small, than it would to say that Robbie Savage (also a footballer) is aggressive because he has blond hair”.

  • ” In modern international units, he was just shy of 5 feet 7 inches.”

    When did the Imperial system ever became modern, or international?

  • 5’6 is still short just not midget-like as one would expect.

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