How tall was Napoleon Bonaparte? It’s an age old question that is steeped in mystery and myth. For the best part of two hundred years we have all thought that he was really rather short, the “little corporal” as he was affectionately known. There has been plenty of evidence and hearsay to say that he was almost a dwarf, but we can confirm that he wasn’t. In fact, while compared to todays standards he would have been a little smaller, he wasn’t short at all. He was actually tall, especially for his time. So why all of the confusion?
Napoleon Bonaparte, the Little Corporal as he was affectionately known by his troops, was actually tall. The common misconception over his height likely stems from the difference in measuring French feet to British feet. The French system of measurement was a slightly larger unit of measure than the British. That coupled with his endearment from his troops, and we have the beginnings of a myth, and an enduring one at that.
At the time of his death, Napoleon Bonaparte was measured to be 5 feet 2 inches in French feet, which translates into 5 feet 7 inches in the British system of measurement (1.69 m). He was measured in French feet because he was French. While this is under the average height for a man today, for the period in which Napoleon lived he was actually taller than the average man. So one could even possibly argue that he was tall.
One French inch measures 2.71 cm while one British inch measures 2.54 cm.
But then again, it is possible that for all this time people weren’t talking about his stature. They could have been talking about his manhood, because it’s sitting in New Jersey, and can be measured. And I have no doubt at all that it was.
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