The Napoleon complex?


J&L Gossip

This summer takes us to the Beauty Island where nature is wild and the witness of its past. From its whole History, Corsica gave us one of the most famous characters in the French History and known all over the world: Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was born in Ajaccio (or Aiacciu in Corsican) in 1769 few time after the island became officially French, even though Corsica “has often been conquered but has never been dominated!” Then, our young Bonaparte went off to study on the “continent” and took part in the French Revolution in 1789.

Sentier littoral des Bruzzi - Corse
The Bruzzi Seaside Path – Corsica, France

History kept from him his takeovers, until his coronation on December 2nd, 1804, as well as his victories such as in Austerlitz in 1806. History kept also his defeats such as the very famous battle of Waterloo – that our English friends are still so proud of today! – or his abdications in 1814 and 1815. Napoleon Bonaparte, or Napoleon the First, was a character with a strong personality and tenacious just like his magnificent island.

David, Napoléon traversant les Alpes, 1805
David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1805

Nevertheless, what have we kept from him in mind all over the world? His height… An English expression have even been made: “the Napoleon complex”. It is sad to only remember from that great man this tiny detail which is actually totally wrong! It is time to tell the truth, Napoleon was not small in stature but got the perfect height to be a cavalryman.

Let us recall that Men got taller through centuries. The norm in the early XIXth century is no longer the one in the XXIst century. Bonaparte with his 5 feet 57 (but we believe between 5 feet 51 and 5 feet 54 in reality) was perfectly fitted to do one of the most noble occupations and to become the great man he was. In addition, other great men were definitely smaller than him. For example, Louis the XIVth was about 5 feet 24. Consequently, our first emperor was not one to be lost in a crowd or to wear high heels…

Baron, Napoléon en costume de sacre
Baron, Napoleon in his coronation costume

After all, as this 1970’s movie with Dustin Hauffman titled very well, we can be a “little big man”.


Key Information

Napoleon Bonaparte

Born: 1769 (Ajaccio)

Died: 1821 (Sainte-Hélène)


Coronation date: December 2nd, 1804

Reign: 1804-1814 (First abdication happened in Fontainebleau castle and exil to Elbe Island) / 1815 (exil to Sainte-Helene Island)

Corsica was owned by the Gênes Republic since the XIIIth century and coveted by many countries and cities such as Pisa and France. Louis the XVth can definitely rule Corsica – military and administratively – on May 15th, 1768 thanks to the Treaty of Versailles.

Photo credits:

1 – Presentation photo: David, Coronation of Emperor Napoleon I, 1804 © Ecole Camille Hirtz

2 – The Bruzzi seaside path © J&L Paris

3 – David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1805 © EPV/ Jean-Marc Manaï

4 – Baron, Napoleon in his coronation costume © L’Histoire par l’image

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