Was Napoleon Short?

Napoleon Bonaparte was short.

Was Napoleon Short?

Napoleon wasn’t short, he was 5 ft. 2 in tall by French measurement at the time of his death, which equates to about 5 ft. 6 in by British measurement. The average English male stood at about 5 ft. 5 in at the time.

Why Did People Think Napoleon Was Short?

Napoleon would have been surrounded by bodyguards and soldiers in his army (particularly his Imperial Guard which had height requirements). He would have appeared short standing next to his arm. He was nicknamed the ‘le petit caporal’, often translated as ‘little corporal’, even though it was a term of affection rather than a description of his height. His first wife Josephine was about 5 foot 4/5 and he would reportedly ask her not to wear heels so she didn’t appear taller. [1]

A brief documentary that gives an overview of Napoleon’s life .

How Do We Know Napoleon’s Height?

At the time of his death, a French doctor recorded his height as 5 ft. 2. He would have used a French measurement system. 5 ft. 2 in french measurement equates to about 5 ft. 6 to 5 ft. 7 in British measurement. This made him slightly taller than the average English male who stood at 5 foot 5 inches. [2]

TIP: With the above said, Napoleon’s height has long been debated. One might question why the idea that Napoleon was short is so pervasive in history if he was not actually short. However, an explanation could be as simple as, “Napoleon was often seen with his Imperial Guard, which contributed to the perception of his being short because the Imperial Guards were of above average height” as pointed out by Wikipedia.

Did Napoleon Have a “Napoleon Complex”?

Was Napoleon Short?

Napoleon may have had a “Napoleon complex“about his height in relation to his first wife Josephine, or perhaps in comparison to his soldiers, or to other powerful figures, and this may have contributed to a complex being named after him. But, at the end of the day he was slightly taller than the average Frenchman of the time, so any complex was a likely comparative one rather than a complex based on his own height alone.


Napoleon wasn’t short. He was at least an average height. He may have even been slightly taller than average at the time, but simply appeared short next to the tall soldiers in his army. The myth is most likely perpetuated from this fact.


  1. Was Napoleon Bonaparte Short?“. Europeanhistory.about.com. Retrieved Jan 19, 2016.
  2. Cultural depictions of Napoleon“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Jan 19, 2016.

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Vote Fact or Myth: "Napoleon Was Short"

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Rivers on
Supports this as a Fact.

Maybe the French coroner exaggerated his height? Maybe the French doctor measured incorrectly. Seems unlikely that this idea of Napoleon would exist if he wasn’t actually short. Btw, 5 foot 5 is soooooo short for a man now.

Andre on

Historical records show that he was five foot

Anuj on

Short or tall that man defeat the most powerful human of entire Europe, loss always find fault or excuse in other , I think he is not so short, as we all know average of human was equal to him, he is military man , if he is so small then no one allow him to join army , he became king after fighting and winning as major General of army,