Was Napoleon Really Short?

Commemorative statue of Napoleon Bonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica.  Editorial credit: Evannovostro / Shutterstock.com
Commemorative statue of Napoleon Bonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica. Editorial credit: Evannovostro / Shutterstock.com

Napoleon is known to have had a potent influence on the modern day world. He brought liberal improvements to the regions that he captured.He left a legacy by implementing essential liberal strategies in France and across Europe. The Napoleonic code has dramatically influenced the legal structures of not less than 70 nations around the world. Many people will, however, remember him by the myth about his height. It is, therefore, useful to know that Napoleon was not as short as most people thought he was. Measuring 5 foot 7 inches (according to modern measurement) was even taller than an average French man.

Early Life and Career

Bonaparte was born the same year that the Republic of Genoa changed Corsica to France. Napoleon's father was an attorney when Bonaparte turned nine years old. He moved to the French mainland and enrolled Napoleon at a religious school. Later, Napoleon transferred with a scholarship, and he joined an army academy. In this institution, it is alleged that Napoleon was often bullied due to his accent and mostly due to his height. Nevertheless, it did not stop him from achieving his goal since, after his graduation in September 1785, he joined the French revolution and led several wars. Napoleon used up the initial years of the rebellion in Corsica, rebelling against the radicals and the Corsican nationalists. Napoleon reinforced the Jacobin movement, and he was given authority over a battalion of unpaid workers. In the year 1795, Napoleon was allocated to the Army of the west which involved itself in a civil war commonly known as the Vendée. He raised through ranks of the military to be one the greatest commanders. He defeated the royalist, and this made him extra famous. He was then promoted to become the overall commandant of the army of the interior and was given the power of the Italian army.

Napoleon’s Height

By the time of his death, Napoleon's height was estimated to be around 5 foot 2 inches according to the French measurements of that time. There is a lot of discrepancy in the historical description of Napoleon's height due to the difference in the measurement standards between the English and French-speaking worlds. The French inch was, in fact, longer than the British inch. As a result, any height measured in French measurements seemed short. It is thus possible that Napoleon's height was actually closer to 5 foot 7 inches. Most likely, Napoleon was of average height for French men at the time, but was deemed as short compared to other military men who held high-powered positions.

Moreover, due to the constant rivalry that existed between British and French people, it is believed that the British described Napoleon Bonaparte as extremely short. He was considered to be tiny because he was always surrounded by tall and huge bodyguards. He was referred to as "the little corporal" as translated from the French "Le Petit Caporal." The British made cartons mocking Napoleon's height since there were no photography or television to correct this impression. Consequently, the British took it as a fact. The British and other foes of Napoleon spread the rumor that he was extremely short as a way of undermining him.


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