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.

    • Rishiraj Singhania

      Napoleon’s height was recorded in Vedas as 5 foot 7 inches. Proof of Hinduism. Bam

  • 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?

    • When the British Empire ruled most of the world.

      • The British empire is dead and so are it s antiquated units.

        • Jesus is dead, Allah is dead,Elvis is dead, Tupac is dead, and people still can’t get through one day without referencing those things a million times. Some people don’t move on. It’s why Flyover America still thinks manufacturing will save them and the world will revert back to 1955 tomorrow if they vote in the right idiot.

  • 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.

    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

  • Joseph D.S. Blackie Jr.

    In all my thoughts I ever thought of him to being as short as four feet, I read of him 22 years ago but only learnt much of his life today.

  • Anarchist Chicken

    Nestor Makhno was about 5-2 feet tall. Instead of pissing bitters about it he used it to his advantage by dressing up as a woman and going on spying missions, pulling his small hands out of handcuffs etc etc etc.
    It takes balls to turn a defect into an advantage.

  • Another reason many think of Napolean as short is that British propaganda back in those days often depicted him as small, inferior, and weak. In America we read British propaganda much more than France’s, because, well, they were in English and that’s the language we read. So if all the propaganda pieces show that he is short, and he is listed at 5’2, it can be inferred that he was short, even if that is not true.

  • 5’5″ is the average height because the vast majority of people were undernourished. Amongst the upper class the average height was approximately the same as today. So compared to others of Napoleon’s class he would of still be considered short at 5’7″.

  • After revolution France has adapted the METRIC system. Are there any information on Napoleon survive in metric?

  • Feet & inches are neither modern nor international. The only modern unit for length today is the metre.

    His height in modern units would then be 1.70 m and the average height for an adult male of the time would be 1.65 m.

    Today, 1.75 m is the norm, 2.0 m would be a giant.

    • That’s why the metric system sucks for height and temperature. Great for everything else, especially tools.

      • Tell that to the whole world. The whole world uses only Celsius and finds no problem with it. The entire world of science and development uses only Celsius. More people use metres for height than a dual muddle and find it superior. Majority wins.

        • You mean, the whole world that did not land men on the moon and return them safely to the earth?

          The metric system is all well and good, but snobbery about its superiority is misplaced. The world ran well on feet, inches, and other local measures until the French Revolution brought us the meter. It still runs well on feet, miles and gallons.

          Unmount your high house, dear sir.

    • According to your logic, we should all be muslim since it’s the most popular religion in the world.

      So no.

      • Islam may be the most popular religion, but it is not world-wide and only 22 % of the world’s population is Muslim. The metric system however is world-wide with a following of around 95 % of the world’s population. Now, if you want to be that much of a minority and have people refuse to buy your products and watch your economy spiral down, then go ahead. The rest of us will continue to move forward and even at your expense sell you the metric products we produce and you are willing to buy.

  • I’d still kick his ass. I’m 6’8. So yeah…he’s short!

  • eviloverlords_chiefminion

    One can determine his height by simply measuring the height of the desk
    he is standing in front of, and comparing that to his height. It would
    be a very unusual desk of any period to have the working surface
    designed for one to be seated at that is shorter than 27 inches (69cm)
    or taller than 29 inches (74cm) – which is actually a more modern
    working height for keyboards. As a very quick and rough measurement off
    my computer screen, the Desk height is 10cm and Napoleon is 24cm. This
    yields his height as between 5ft 5in (165cm) and 5ft 9in (177cm). Thus,
    given the rest of the evidence, I would tend to go with the 5ft 5in

    • Incorrect. This was a painting done by a man who did many satirical paintings displaying him as short, that one artist is the main man responsible for why he’s viewed as short. Also….ITS A PAINTING. Lol. Taking any form of significance from a painting when it’s well known back then dignitaries would have “special” instructions for their depictions.

  • Vulgaris Magistralis

    That’s rubbish. If you go to the Musée de l’Armée des Invalides in Paris, there are many army uniforms there and one of them belonged to Napoleon. And it is notably short.

    • Daven Hiskey

      Short by today’s standards, not by his own era and region of the world, as noted in the article.

  • Being a hero has nothing to do with height. You haters are jealous because you are taller than he is but are unable to achieve some of the things he did.
    If someone is taller than you it’s only because their legs are longer. So you nitwits define a person because one person has longer leg bones, idiots you all are and can’t think for yourselfs.
    Audie Murphy was 5’5″ and maybe 120 or so pounds. Yet he is one of the all time war heroes in any war and I truly praise this man, but no one makes fun of his achievements or more likely correlates the two, meaning height with ability and toughness.
    There are many like Audie Murphy but for some reason you all knock Napoleon and knock anyone that is relatively short today if they are aggressive. Women are shorter in general, but you don’t say anything about that. Why? Because they are women. If that’s the case then you are the type that think women cannot be an equal which is hogwash.
    So stop hating people for trying to achieve something and putting their neck on the line to do so. Same people that can’t or won’t start their own company always knocks the guy that did and he put everything on the line and you didn’t, but your jealousy knows no bounds with people like Napoleon and the men and women of all sizes out there protecting us.
    Thanks for reading.
    God Bless

  • Actually, everyone is born short, very short!

  • Napoleon was taller than George III and Horatio Nelson. An English cartoonist drew him as being Tom Thumb size and it stuck.