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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59 comments

  • 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”.

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Solving-the-Napoleon-Complex-Are-Short-Men-More-Aggressive-Than-Taller-Ones-51292.shtml

  • ” 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.

  • his guards were Marmelukes.

  • This is nothing more than modern revisionists re-writing history to hold some kind of romanticism claiming Napoleon stature is actually bigger than average. There is a few fact you cannot refute, Napoleon’s coffin is very tiny like that of a child certainly fit someone no taller than 5’2″. His uniform is child size. His physics, portly body, small shoulders and short neck, short arms often associate with diminutive men not least paintings of him next to furnitures reveals he was very small indeed.

    • Napoleon was CREMATED and his ashes placed inside a small coffin, so the size of the coffin really doesn’t tell us much now, does it?

      But hey, congratulations on making a fool of yourself.

  • For the record this painting of Napoleon and Josephine.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/9f/d8/13/9fd813ad355bd175a8e8e71d5c7c7c30.jpg

    If Napoleon was 5’7″ as some revisionist historians might want you to believe then this painting must indicate Joesphine was close to 6 feet tall and the other people featured must be at least 6 feet an over.
    Somehow I don’t buy it because the painting would most likely make Napoleon taller than he actually was yet he still remains the shortest which means the man is actually vey small in reality. I think he is more like 4’9″ and wore heals.

    • Simon>Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife, was remembered in history as being incredibly tall. If Napoleon was indeed 5’7” tall, the canvas suggests Josephine was probably around 5’9” tall (at best; she doesn’t look more than 2” taller than him on the canvas, and she is closer from the artist’s point of view). Napoleon was very picky at only taking the tallest soldiers for his imperial guards, so there’s a good chance a couple of them were 6’0” tall. Stop being revisionist yourself and consider that Napoleon was depicted with some of the tallest French people of his time.

  • Now they’re saying he was tall and beautiful, come on after all this centuries let alone years we thought he was as short as they come and now Historians are trying to give him six more inches which in those days was a LOT! Please let us remember him as this short and compulsive SOB who tried to rule the world and don’t change his stature! Next he’s going to be tall dark and handsome LOL
    Thank you

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