On Whether the Little Corporal was Really Little

Napoleon is one of the most famous people in modern history — famous for trying to conquer Europe, and famous for being short. Well, fame for trying to conquer Europe is justified. He tried, and almost succeeded. But the fame for being short is misplaced. He was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, taller than the average Frenchman at the time. His nickname, “The Little Corporal,” came from the fact that he held this relatively low rank early in his career. Like all good nicknames, it stuck, even when he became Emperor of France. It’s tough to shake off a good nickname, Buzzkillers.

Was Napoleon Short?

Napoleon is often depicted as short. In this image, a British Prime Minister squats over a cocked hat into which he evacuates papers including “Egypt,” “Guadeloupe,” and last, “Malta,” Napoleon holds him by the cravat and threatens him. By James Gillray, 1756-1815, via Library of Congress.