People Trivia 28 Things You Didn't Know About Napoleon  

Lisa Waugh
84.6k views 28 items
Here’s a list for all those of Napoleon Bonaparte biography and historical facts fans. Who was Napoleon? A lot of Napoleon facts have been shortened - ahem - over time, omitting vital information. Others have been created out of whole cloth. For instance, he was the average height of a Frenchman in his time at 5’6”. Sure, he was ambitious and fell prey to narcissism and power madness, but he also helped usher in a new age of a more cohesive and rational governmental structure for France. He was a brilliant military strategist with a drive to rebuild his country and expand France's power, but he also marched himself into infamy. Such is the man that was Napoleon Bonaparte.
 
Aside from the height jabs and the Waterloo shaming, there are lots of interesting Napoleon facts, such as his saucy letters to Joséphine in the early days of their lust and love, the fact that Beethoven was a fan of his until Napoleon went a step too far and appointed himself emperor, that he probably wasn’t afraid of cats, or that a priest may have smuggled his penis out of the country. He also wrote a romance novella as the age of 26, Clisson et Eugénie, which appears to be roughly based on his own life and heart’s desire. A lot of people gave if four and five stars on Amazon.
 
Who was Napoleon? Well, for one thing, he had numerous supporters and was beloved among the common people across Europe. So beloved that the British made sure he was locked away on a remote island for his second and final stint in exile. They also knew just how determined and intelligent the man was. They beefed up the garrison on the island of St. Helena, called in the Royal Navy, and even stationed soldiers on a neighboring island just in case of a rescue expedition.
 
He was ambitious and was made for war, but Napoleon facts reveal that he was a positive catalyst for Europe, bringing order to government even if by helping mount a coup. He also introduced conscription, religious freedom, offered a cash prize to solve food preservation for armies, and opened up society so that the common man who worked and studied could improve his station. As he created power for himself, he created powerful enemies, leading to his ultimate downfall.  
 
Was Napoleon a villain or a savior? A man of the people, or the untouchable emperor? All of the above, perhaps? Upvote your favorite Napoleon Bonaparte facts and remember: “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”

He Wasn’t Short


He Wasn’t Short is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 28 Things You Didn't Know About Napoleon
Photo: Fæ/flickr/CC-BY 2.0
Napoleon was probably around 5’6”, the average height for a Frenchman in the early 1800s, but members of his Imperial Guard were taller so he appeared short in comparison. His English detractors embellished on his height by making him appear diminutive. Added to the visuals were rumors that he sought power to compensate for his height, also known as the "Napoleon complex."
 
The “Napoleon Complex” has been debunked by studies. Upon his death, the attending physician made a note that Napoleon’s body was 5'2" "from the top of the head to the heels" which equals 5’ 6” in English measurements.

A Priest Stole Napoleon's Penis


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Photo:  kollynlund/Pixabay/CC0 1.0
Supposedly, the priest Vignali removed some of Napoleon’s organs after his death and may have also taken his penis. The ruler’s penis was handed down through the Vignali family, as one does, and ended up being sold to a British book firm in 1916.  
 
John K. Lattimer, former chairman of urology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, purchased Napoleon’s penis at auction in 1977. It was described as a “shriveled seahorse” (hey, it’s cold in the afterlife) and sold for $3,000.

Napoleon Helped Solidify Driving on the Right Side of the Road


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Riders across continental Europe rode on the left side of the road, specifically so that they could wield a sword or a weapon from their right hand. It was also considered safer to mount and dismount a horse from the side of the road. Sorry, left-handed people! Also, nobility rode on the left, pushing the poor folk to the right side of the road. After the French Revolution, aristocrats got the idea to pass on the right in order to blend with the peasants and escape detection.   

In 1709 in Russia, Peter the Great recognized the custom and Empress Elizabeth made it an official edict in 1752. But Napoleon decided to change road traffic to the right to surprise the enemy. This new way quickly spread among his conquests and was adopted across Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Poland and across many areas in Italy and Spain. Britain, Portugal, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire resisted.

Napleon and Joséphine Had a Tumultuous Relationship


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The relationship between Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Joséphine started out very passionately, at least on his part. She definitely played the game and did have feelings for him, but her past and old habits of taking lovers plagued their marriage.  
 
The letters between the couple show a man at war on the battlefield and with his feelings for his fickle wife. At times, passionate and naughty, and then later upon hearing of an affair from his brother, full of rage and downcast. She overplayed her hand and soon Napoleon’s feeling began to turn.  
 
In revenge, he took a mistress, Pauline Bellisle Foures (a junior officer’s wife), and wrote to his brother, "The veil is torn… It is sad when one and the same heart is torn by such conflicting feelings for one person... I need to be alone. I am tired of grandeur; all my feelings have dried up. I no longer care about my glory. At twenty-nine I have exhausted everything." Unfortunately, the letter was intercepted by the British and then all of Europe knew of Joséphine’s unfaithfulness and the emperor’s changed feelings.