A Napoleon Complex | Two Chums

by Two Chums on June 19, 2024

A Napoleon Complex Two Chums

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Napoleon complex” which refers to the idea that small creatures — whether people or Pomeranians — often act as if they’re much bigger than they really are, supposedly in an attempt to overcompensate for their lack of stature.

Of course, it’s also a reference to Napoleon Bonaparte, the early 19th-century French emperor who wreaked havoc on the European continent for nearly two decades. Yet French sources say Napoleon probably stood at about 5 feet, 5 inches.

While that might seem somewhat short by today’s standards, it was only an inch shorter than the average height of a Frenchman at the time. It’s possible he even stood an inch or two taller than this estimate. 

So why does history remember Napoleon as such a tiny tyrant? Turns out, it’s actually an enduring piece of British propaganda. In 1803, British political cartoonist James Gillray  — arguably the most influential caricaturist of his time — introduced the character “Little Boney”, which portrayed Bonaparte as both diminutive and juvenile. In his cartoons, Napoleon was often seen throwing tantrums while stomping around in oversized boots, military garb, and bicorne hats. The image stuck, and the sight of a raging, pint-sized Napoleon echoed through history. Before his death in 1821, the twice-exiled Napoleon even admitted that Gillray “did more than all the armies of Europe to bring me down”.

So it is not only in this day that mean-hearted propaganda goes on!

Jackie and Robin

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