10 Interesting Facts About Napoleon Bonaparte

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries
Napoleon Bonaparte, by Jacques-Louis David.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Napoleon Bonaparte is one of the most well-known military leaders in history. He was a master of strategy and conquered many territories during his time as Emperor of France. However, Napoleon was much more than just a military leader. He was also a talented writer and enjoyed spending time with his family. However, Napoleon’s life was not without controversy. Here are some interesting facts about Napoleon that you may not have known!

Napoleon’s Early Life

He was originally named Napoleone Buonaparte, but he later changed how he styled his name. Napoleon was born on August 15, 1769, in Corsica. His father was a minor nobleman who had fought in the French Revolution. When Napoleon was young, his family moved to France, where he would eventually attend military school and begin his career in the military.

Napoleon Was a Talented Writer

Not many people know that Napoleon was a talented writer. He wrote a novella called Clisson et Eugénie, which was published in 1796. It was a love story about two characters named Clisson and Eugénie, and many believe it was based on Napoleon’s own love life. Some have argued that Napoleon was influenced by the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, particularly “La Nouvelle Héloïse” (1761), written during his exile in Switzerland, where he developed many ideas related to romanticism.

Napoleon Bonaparte Inspired the Term “Napoleon Complex”

Napoleon Bonaparte during the Siege of Toulon
Napoleon Bonaparte during the Siege of Toulon.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The term “Napoleon complex” is used to describe a person who is short in stature and has an inferiority complex as a result. It’s characterized by overly aggressive or domineering social behavior, where you feel the need to be superior at everything and possess all that someone else has even though it may go against your own values. This term was first used to describe Napoleon Bonaparte, who was said to be short. Napoleon’s short stature did not hold him back, as he compensated for it by seeking power and war. He led France to many victories in these fields throughout his reign (and those before).

Some Believe Napoleon Wasn’t Actually Short

Even though the term “Napoleon Complex” was coined after Napoleon Bonaparte, historians believe Napoleon was actually of average height. Napoleon Bonaparte was often surrounded by tall soldiers, so he looked short-statured in comparison. At the time of his death, he measured 5 feet 2 inches in French units, the equivalent of 5 feet 6 inches (1.68m) in modern measurement units.

His Wife Josephine Was a Controversial Figure

Empress Josephine Bonaparte Portrait by Antoine-Jean Gros, in c. 1809
Joséphine Bonaparte.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Josephine was imprisoned and scheduled for execution, but when the Reign of Terror ended, Josephine was released from prison. Josephine Bonaparte was Napoleon’s wife and Empress of France. She was a talented woman in her own right and helped Napoleon with his campaigns and with running the government. However, their marriage was not without controversy. Josephine was unfaithful to Napoleon, and he had several affairs of his own.

Napoleon Would Walk the Streets Disguised as a Peasant

Napoleon was known for his elaborate disguises. He would often dress as a peasant to move about undetected. This allowed him to gather information and plan his next move without being noticed. He wanted to know what the people on the street really thought of him, so he reportedly went around and asked people if they approved or disapproved of the emperor’s actions. Napoleon also liked to disguise himself as a commoner and explore the areas he had conquered. This gave him a unique perspective on the lives of the people living in those areas.

It’s Possible That Napoleon Was Afraid of Cats

There is a myth that Napoleon was afraid of cats, which is ironic given that they are now often associated with him. He is said to have hated them so much that he would order his soldiers to kill any cats they came across on the battlefield. Interestingly, Napoleon was also afraid of spiders and snakes. He is said to have been particularly terrified of the latter and would often have his servants kill any snakes they found in his presence.

Napoleon Bonaparte Was a Superstitious Man

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his fear of cats and snakes, Napoleon was also said to be superstitious. Napoleon Bonaparte had an interesting perspective on life: He thought he could feel divine guidance through a lucky star. He is reported to have carried a lucky charm with him at all times. Napoleon believed that some people were doomed to bad luck, so he always asked his generals, “Is he lucky?”. Napoleon also believed that his first wife, Josephine brought him good luck.

Napoleon Wore Poison Around His Neck

Napoleon was known to wear a vial of poison around his neck. If he were ever captured, he would commit suicide to avoid being tortured. According to some sources, he did finally drink the poison in 1814 following his exile to Elba. But by then, it had lost its potency and only made him violently ill instead of killing him!

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Death is Still a Mystery

Napoleon looking out to the sea on St Helena by Franz Josef Sandmann
Napoleon on St Helena by Franz Josef Sandmann
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821, on the Island of Saint Helena. He had been exiled there after his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon’s cause of death is still a matter of debate. The most common theory is that he died of stomach cancer. Another possible cause of Napoleon’s death is arsenic poisoning. Some historians believe that his doctors may have inadvertently poisoned him with arsenic while trying to treat his stomach cancer. Whatever the cause of his death, Napoleon’s legacy continues to this day. He is considered one of the greatest military leaders in history.

Napoleon was one of the most fascinating and complex characters in history. Though he is often remembered for his military exploits, there is much more to this enigmatic figure than meets the eye. We hope that you have enjoyed learning about some of the lesser-known aspects of Napoleon’s life and career. What do you think is the most interesting thing about him?

RELATED ARTICLE: The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte


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