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Facts We Just Learned About Napoleon Bonaparte That Made Us Say 'Really?'

August 27, 2020 3.8k votes 518 voters 19.1k views14 items

List RulesVote up the facts about Napoleon you're excited to know now.

Napoleon Bonaparte is well known today as one of the greatest conquerors of the past, but he may even be more well known for his rumored short height. His alleged stunted stature even spurred the "Napoleon complex" that is said to afflict those who also suffer from being shorter than the average and aren't too happy about it. But what if this Napoleon fun fact isn't actually true? In reality, a lot of interesting Napoleon facts we think we know have been altered, misremembered, or transformed by history. The truth may actually make him even more interesting! 

Vote up the facts about Napoleon Bonaparte people just learned that you're excited to know now.

  • 1

    He Commissioned A 'New Language' That Today We Know As Braille

    He Commissioned A 'New Language' That Today We Know As Braille
    Photo: davehalb / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    From Redditor u/Kladinov:

    TIL That Napoleon commissioned the development of a system that would allow his troops to communicate at night in the front lines, which was eventually taught to and perfected by 12 year old student Louis Braille.

    Context: While at war, soldiers who lit lanterns to read orders and letters at night were often targeted. To combat this, Napoleon wanted to come up with a way to communicate in the dark without giving up their location. A member of his army, Charles Barbier, came up with a raised dot system that communicated general words or sounds so the soldiers could effectively communicate necessities at night. That system was later refined to make what we know today as braille.

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  • 2

    Napoleon Ordered 10 Days Of Grieving When George Washington Passed

    Napoleon Ordered 10 Days Of Grieving When George Washington Passed
    Photo: Northfielder / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    From a former Redditor:

    TIL that when President George Washington died, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte ordered ten days of mourning in France.

    Context: George Washington passed away in Mount Vernon in 1799, and when he did, tens of thousands of people mourned the loss. Among those saddened was Napoleon Bonaparte. To honor the American revolutionary Napoleon declared 10 days of official mourning in France.

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  • 3

    His Defeat At Waterloo Was Partially Due To A Volcanic Eruption

    His Defeat At Waterloo Was Partially Due To A Volcanic Eruption
    Photo: William Sadler / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    From Redditor u/amansaggu26:

    TIL Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo was partly due to a volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Electrically charged volcanic ash short-circuited Earth's atmosphere in 1815, causing global poor weather. Rainy and muddy conditions helped the Allied army defeat Napoleon.

    Context: A volcano had erupted nearly 8,000 miles from Waterloo in Indonesia about two months before Napoleon's armies stormed in to what would become their demise. But the volcano that erupted may have been the reason his army lost at the Battle of Waterloo. It's documented that the conditions had become wet and muddy after the explosion because it had caused an atmospheric disturbance. These conditions in the midst of battle were factors that led to the French defeat.

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  • 4

    Napoleon Smelled Like A Cologne Still Sold Today

    Napoleon Smelled Like A Cologne Still Sold Today
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    From Redditor u/Travisc20:

    TIL we know what Napoleon Bonaparte smelled like. He ordered multiple bottles of cologne monthly and spread it on himself with a brush. The cologne is called 4711 and the same recipe is still used today as when Napoleon used it.

    Context: Napoleon was known to keep up with his hygiene. One of his favorite methods of keeping clean was dousing himself in Eau de Cologne, which was his cologne of choice. It's expected he went through 60 flasks of the scent in a single month. This particular cologne can still be purchased today, but the recipe does remain secret so it's tough to say whether that recipe has changed over time.

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