He was not even 25 years old when he became a general. As a result, he fought more battles than Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Alexander Suvorov combined. At the same time, he became famous for his aggressiveness, desire for dominance, stubbornness and prudishness. These character traits were supposed to stem from his complex. But is it true?
Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most controversial figures in human history. He believed in law and order and his new civil code became a model for other countries. At the same time, he held the view that innovative ideas are best spread through violence. He also wanted to build a unified European empire that would be a center of learning. However, he was aware that the surrounding realms would not simply join him. Therefore, more than six million people died in his wars of conquest.
Between 1804 and 1815 his name was inflected all over the old continent. Some loved him, others hated him. He was portrayed as a military genius and heroic visionary. On the other hand, he became famous as a “little tyrant”. People made fun of his height and whispered to each other that he suffered from a complex. It is said that his aggressiveness made up for the missing centimeters.
According to historians, the legend of Napoleon’s short stature is the work of one man: British cartoonist James Gillray. His pictures of the French statesman were so popular and influential that the warlord himself considered them great advertising. “Gillray has done more for me than all the armies of Europe,” he declared at the end of his life.
Maniac-raving’s-or-Little Boney in a strong fit
The artist satirized Bonaparte as a thundering, boastful character who cannot keep his emotions in check. This is how he depicted him in the work Maniac-raving’s-or-Little Boney in strong fit from 1803. Napoleon here resembles a child with a tantrum. He’s tearing his hair and surrounded by overturned furniture. The cartoon’s name “Little Boney” quickly caught on. The lasting influence of Gillray’s satire, which inspired other artists, gave rise to the myth that the commander was ugly and low. It has survived to this day.
“However, it was really just targeted mockery,” says biographer and German journalist Günter Müchler. If the emperor had been complex, he wouldn’t have worn such a distinctive hat and wouldn’t have been photographed often. He probably didn’t think anything of it because the reality was different.”
How much did the general really measure? Historians can answer this question almost exactly. They found his riding coat, which is 1.25 meters long. Experienced tailors calculated that its owner must have been taller than 165 centimeters. This confirms the claims of the French doctor François Carl Antomarch, who measured Napoleon just after his death. He stated on record that he was 168.6 centimeters.
So the French general was slightly taller than European men at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. They mostly grew to be 167 to 168 centimeters tall. Even in 1835, the average height of French army recruits was only 1.62 meters.
Resources: www.vat.pravda.sk, www.history.com, www.wondriumdaily.com