Weird History
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The Different Physical Sizes Of Historical Rulers

Updated December 12, 2019 307.5k views15 items

How tall were leaders in the past? As in the 21st century, historical famous leaders' height varied considerably, as did definitions of how tall or short a person was. But whether big or small, all of these rulers cast a shadow that exceeded their physical height.

Physical shapes and sizes were often useful political tools for hereditary monarchs and elected officials alike to validate their authority. But though society has used sizes to celebrate or denigrate those in power, these features never impacted a leader's ability to rule. From an enormous medieval king who stood head and shoulders above his subjects, to a short president of Mexico who had giant influence, historical leaders prove that a person's physical appearance or size does not determine their skills.

Photo:
  • Photo: Paul Delaroche / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Height: 6'7"

    Tall and imposing, Peter the Great was Russia's bear of a czar. His height would have been even more noticeable in the early modern world. Average heights for men and women in the 1600s and 1700s were shorter than their medieval and modern counterparts.

    Peter was so well known for his height that many contemporaries believed he stood more than 7 feet tall. 

  • Photo: Workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Height: 6'2"

    Though remembered for his large waistline later in life - which was caused, in part, by inactivity and a rich diet following a jousting incident - Henry was also quite tall: he stood at more than 6 feet tall.

    While decked out in armor, however, Henry would have look even taller and more imposing. In one suit of armor, Henry's height increased to 6 feet, 4 inches tall. But such armor was heavy: one suit made for him in 1520 weighed around 94 pounds .

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Height: 5'11"

    Queen Mary of Scotland towered over the majority of her subjects. But while tall, Mary was also known for her graceful manners

    Mary's height became her most distinguishing feature. She was so tall compared with her contemporaries that people who had never seen Mary before could identify her solely based on her height.

  • Photo: Luisa Pagador Rosario / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Height: 5'1" - 5'4"

    Queen Elizabeth II has not been the same height her entire adult life. At the time of coronation in 1953, she stood at 5 feet, 4 inches tall; by 2019, she was 5 feet, 1 inch tall.

    Though the queen appears small, her height is somewhat typical of her generation. In 1957, just a few years after her coronation, the average height for a woman in Great Britain was 5 feet, 2 inches tall. By this metric, Elizabeth was around average height when she became queen.