Posted on October 25 2016

Napoleon has become a worldwide cultural icon who symbolizes military genius and political power. Martin van Creveld described him as "the most competent human being who ever lived". Since his death, many towns, streets, ships, and even cartoon characters have been named after him. He has been portrayed in hundreds of films and discussed in hundreds of thousands of books and articles.

During the Napoleonic Wars he was taken seriously by the British press as a dangerous tyrant, poised to invade. The British nicknamed him Boney.[citation needed] A nursery rhyme warned children that Bonaparte ravenously ate naughty people; the "bogeyman". The British Tory press has depicted Napoleon as much smaller than average height before, and that image persisted. Confusion about his height results from the difference between the French pouce and British inch—2.71 cm and 2.54 cm, respectively. The myth of the "Napoleon Complex”—named after him to describe men who have an inferiority complex—stems primarily from the fact that he was listed, incorrectly, as 5 feet 2 inches (in French units) at the time of his death. He was 168 centimeters (5 ft 6 in) tall, an average height for a man of that period.

In 1908 Alfred Adler, a psychologist, cited Napoleon to describe an inferiority complex in which short people adopt an over-aggressive behavior to compensate for lack of height; this inspired the term Napoleon complex. The stock character of Napoleon is a comically short "petty tyrant" and this has become a cliché in popular culture. He is often portrayed wearing a large bicorne hat with a hand-in-waistcoat gesture—a reference to the painting produced in 1812 by Jacques-Louis David.

When he became First Consul and later Emperor, Napoleon eschewed his general's uniform and habitually wore the green colonel uniform (non-Hussar) of a colonel of the Chasseur à Cheval of the Imperial Guard, the regiment that served as his personal escort many times, with a large bicorne. He also habitually wore (usually on Sundays) the blue uniform of a colonel of the Imperial Guard Foot Grenadiers (blue with white facings and red cuffs). He also wore his Légion d'honneur star, medal and ribbon, and the Order of the Iron Crown decorations, white French-style culottes and white stockings. This was in contrast to the complex uniforms with many decorations of his marshals and those around him.

Recent Posts