How Tall Was Napoleon Bonaparte Actually?

French inches were longer than English inches.

2 min
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
How Tall Was Napoleon Bonaparte Actually?
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Most people truly believe that the French military leader who inspired the term “Napoleon complex” was an angry, little man. A person who aggressively conquered other nations to vent his height-related frustrations. But the truth is Napoleon was actually of a rather average height for his time.

Why Do People Think Napoleon Was So Short?

The rumors started for a number of reasons. His nickname, “ le petit caporal ,” was really just a term of endearment rather than a jab at his height. His enemies however, used it against him.

In fact, other countries created propaganda both before and after his death to perpetuate the rumor that he was extremely short. In addition, he reportedly liked to surround himself with very tall soldiers as a military tactic.

Another factor also may have affected our understanding of Napoleon’s height. At the time of his death, the French might have recorded his height in French inches, which were a little longer than English inches. They put him at five-foot-two, but this was probably more like 5 feet and 6.5 inches, a perfectly normal height for a man of his time.

Napoleon in his study.

Of course, we also have the term Napoleon complex, or short man syndrome, which is the idea that shorter men become more aggressive in order to compensate for their petite statures. Though the idea seems perfectly sound, it is not as common in humans as it is in the animal kingdom.

A smaller animal might become more aggressive toward bigger animals in order to fight for limited resources like food or sex. The animal may only have a half chance of winning, but it would often rather risk dying than not getting anything at all. This mainly tells us about animals, not humans. But it’s normal for us to compare ourselves to our furry friends.

So How Tall Was Napoleon?

If you’re not really a measurements kind of person it can help to think that Napoleon was about as tall as a regular-sized refrigerator. Though, obviously, not as wide.

Modern Celebrities Who Are Shorter than Napoleon:

  • Kevin Hart: 5’2”

  • Paul Simon: 5’3”

  • Bruno Mars: 5’5”

  • Daniel Radcliffe: 5’5”

  • Aziz Ansari: 5’6”

  • Jack Black: 5’6”

  • Jon Stewart: 5’6”

  • Lil Wayne: 5’6”

So now you know, when someone mentions Napoleon, remember that he wasn’t actually that short. This is especially true when compared to other men of his time or even today.

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