If you ask most people about Napoleon Bonaparte and they will tells you two things. He was a French general and he was short. Any movie, show, or cartoon that has Napoleon in it is real big on pointing out he was rather diminutive. We even have the so called “Napoleon Complex” named after him, describing men who have an inferiority complex because of their height. It seems his height was a defining characteristic of the “little corporal”.
Expect he wasn’t all that short.
The myth that he was short stems primarily from the fact that he is listed as 5 feet 2 inches tall at the time of his death. However, this is 5 feet 2 inches in French units. In modern international units, he was just shy of 5 feet 7 inches. At the time in France, the average height for an adult male was about 5 feet 5 inches in modern international units. So in fact, he was quite tall for his day.
His nickname Little Corporal (le petit caporal) has added to the confusion, as some have mistakenly interpreted petit by its literal meaning of "small". In fact, it is an affectionate term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers. He may have seemed small next to his elite guards but was in fact about average for his day.
So why has this little bit of information stuck with him?
Well, the British didn’t help much by fact that in their propaganda they always showed him as a tiny man. The propaganda worked so well that our modern day depictions of Napoleon shrink him down to the myth not the facts.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot in our world. Things find their way into popular thinking, not because they are true but because they get told over and over. For example, ask most folks about salvation and they will tell you to recite the Sinner’s Prayer. However, no such prayer is found in the Scriptures. There is no example of this in the New Testament.
So why do people believe it?
It has been told so often people think it is true, without ever bothering to check the facts. That is why we need to be like those of Berea in Acts 17:11 “…for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”
Don’t fall short in your understanding. Check the facts. See if what you hear is really true. What you find out might just change you view of the world!