Did Napoleon have a small man complex?



Every day I find another good thing about winding down my day job. Today’s good thing is having the time to pursue and investigate a pointless piece of information.

When I was working full time, there was just about time in my life for work, food and sleep. When I sat down, there was always either more work to be done or, when I was fooling myself that I was enjoying some “me” time, I would be gently nodding off in front of the TV. Never before now did I have the time to follow up a silly newspaper article in the manner I have today.

I think it was last week that I read something about short men. It was nothing very deep or insightful. It just said something like: these are or were all short men: Hitler, Napoleon, Ronnie Corbet, Sarkozy, Alan Ladd, Tom Cruise, Stalin, Lou Reed, Gandhi and Sylvester Stallone. When you try to find what they have in common, there certainly seems to have been a megalomaniac theme running through a few of them (Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin) but that’s more than balanced out by Gandhi (who was pretty much a hero) and Corbett (who seems a nice chap.)

So why would I care? Well, I don’t. But in an idle moment I found myself researching a little into the smallness of Napoleon Bonaparte and discovered something I didn’t know before. Now perhaps you already know this and I may be the last person on the planet to find out, but I thought I should share it with you anyway.

In the United States there is a urologist who paid $3,800 for Napoleon’s penis. At the time of auction in 1977 it was described as being about one inch long, “a small dried up object” and “resembling a tiny sea horse”.

Poor man. Now I know that by all accounts Napoleon was selfish, power-crazed and altogether a bit unpleasant and, as Gandhi, Ronnie Corbett and plenty of other nice short men prove, he cannot use his lack of height to excuse this behaviour. But even so, does he deserve the indignity of lying in his grave without his most treasured organ and having its appearance derided by comparison to a small marine creature?

And what about that urologist? What on earth is the appeal of having the aforementioned organ in a jar on your mantelpiece? At its greatest, Naploleon’s empire stretched for 720 000 square miles. Beyond the grave, I bet he’d give all of that to be reunited with his missing part.

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