Napoléon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution and its associated wars. Although British propaganda of the time promoted the idea that Napoleon was short – and this belief prevails even today – his height was actually “average” for the period.
It is well documented that Napoleon stood at 5ft 2in – which at the time, was true. However, in those days, the French measured 13 inches to the foot; using modern measurements, he would have actually stood at close to 5ft 7in. For a modern day comparison, Napoleon would have been around as tall as Robert Downey Jnr and Tom Cruise – vertically challenged perhaps, but far from teeny.
More importantly, in France at the time, the average height for an adult male was about 5ft 5in (also based on a 12 inch foot), so at 5ft 7in Napoleon was actually above average. So why was he considered small even during his life? One explanation could be that Napoleon surrounded himself with personal bodyguards who were tall and broad; compared to them the nickname “Le Petit Caporel” (“The Little Corporal”) makes more sense. This nickname is thought to have been an affectionate term at the time, rather than an insult.