The Lesser Known Fascinating Side Of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military leader who rapidly rose through the military ranks during the French Revolution. He declared himself emperor after conquering most of Europe. Widely considered as a cultural icon symbolizing political power and military genius, he has been famous as a shrewd, ambitious and skilled military strategist.

Continue reading to find out about some of the lesser known but surprising facts about The Little Corporal –

  1. The Emperor wasn’t even French! Though Napoleon was born in Corsica (a then French colony), where people primarily spoke Italian, he attended school in France & always considered French as his first language. The 9 year old Nabulio (yes that was his nickname) mastered French but never really lost his Corsican accent which was a constant source of humour his batch mates.
  2. “The Little Corporal” was not so little! Napoleon was actually of an average height about 1.68 m. His preference of always having extremely tall soldiers around him could have contributed to the perception.
  3. Napoleon liked to give people nicknames and would frequently create names of persons according to his fancy; which once adopted remained fixed in his mind and he would get surprised if someone else would address the person with his original name!
  4. Incognito mode on! Napoleon loved walking around Paris and interacting with people dressed up as a middle class man. He believed it was the only way to find out the truth about his popularity and the public’s feelings about him as a ruler.
  5. First-night tragedy! It is said that on their first night Josephine & Napoleon became so passionate that Josephine’s dog bit Napoleon to rescue her thinking she was in danger.
  6. The strong and ambitious man was quite a romantic, which was revealed in his novel “Clisson et Eugenie.” Though widely considered a fictional piece, it is said to be a parallel of his love affair with Eugenie Desiree Clary.
  7. Despite being an extra-ordinary war strategist, Napoleon was not an excellent chess player. He once played and lost a match against an automate. What he didn’t know was that the machine actually had fake gears and in reality a tiny man was playing inside, helped by a clever mirror system.
  8. The Great Warrior could never take a defeat gracefully, even at a card game. Hence, he would cheat quite often and while his opponents understood his tactics, mostly everyone played along.
  9. During long battles, food had to be transported halfway across the European continent. To tackle this, Napoleon brought in the concept of canned food and the French troops on a regular basis.
  10. Napoleon introduced night writing as a military tactic so that soldiers could read in the dark and silently communicate on the battlefield. Years later, a 12 year old blind boy, Louis Braille learned the technique and based on it developed the Braille system for visually impaired. One more thing to thank the Little Corporal for.
  11. Before Napoleon, horse riders in Europe always rode on the left on a road so that in eve of an attack, the sword carrying right hand could be easily put to use. As a military tactic, Napoleon considered this old school and changed sides to throw his enemies off track.
  12. Napoleon had a superhuman ability to sleep and wake up at his own will. He was so well organized he could sleep whenever he wanted. A total of six hours sleep a night sufficed, either as one long nap or in several mini-naps. However when it came to major battles, Napoleon always went in for a sound sleep like a baby and woke up ready to make major decisions on the battlefield.
  13. While the concept of “mind palaces” might have been popularized due to Sherlock Holmes, much before that the Emperor accounted for the clarity of his ideas, to the fact that he organized his head into different compartments. He claimed to simply close a drawer and open another when he wanted to change his focus from one business to another!
  14. One of the greatest military commander the world has ever seen, Napoleon was an “Ailurophobe,” i.e. he had a persistent fear of cats. He was also terrified of open doors and people who came to meet him had to squeeze through a barely adequate opening and then shut the door immediately. Not following this rule could result in the Emperor chopping off the offender’s head!
  15. Napoleon had such a terrible handwriting that he often could not decipher it himself. His habit of writing each word only partially without any spaces in between only added to the complexity. His secretaries however were well accustomed with his hieroglyphics. Luckily for him and the recipients of his letters, he could think and speak so fast that he was able to dictate five letters to his secretaries at the same time.
  16. Napoleon believed in all kinds of superstitions: omens, demons, luck etc. and never considered it a sign of weakness. Whilst December 2 – the day of his coronation in 1804 was considered lucky, he hated Fridays and the number 13.
  17. The giant statue of Seth was a prized possession which Napoleon brought back from the Egyptian campaign. In 1812, during the course of its transportation, the statue drowned in Seine due to an accident. It is said that the curse of the statue changed Napoleon’s life after this and a series of defeats in major battles ensued.
  18. The great warrior was quite pathetic as a singer and dancer: Sometimes in the midst of deep thinking, he would start singing. He would rarely be in tune and he would keep repeating the same words in his unmusical voice. Though Napoleon took dancing lessons in his youth, he did not shine as a dancer either and always got confused with the moves.
  19. The Emperor’s love for liquorice and snuff was such that he would always carry around his handkerchief, his snuffbox, and a little shell box filled with liquorice. He would take snuff almost every minute, even dipping his fingers into empty boxes! His obsession with liquorice was such that even on his death bed, he wanted to drink only liquorice-flavoured water.
  20. Long, hot baths? Yes, please! Napoleon would usually remain in the hot bath for around two hours, during which he would listen to news and extracts from the journals. Napoleon also liked his room hot and had perennial fire in all his apartments; he was habitually very sensitive to cold.
  21. Though always at war, Napoleon was proud of his almost perfect hands, and he took great care of his fingernails. One could mistake them for the beautiful hands of a woman.”
  22. Napoleon liked to eat with his fingers instead of fork and would dip his bread in the sauce and the gravy, which did not prevent the dish from circulating on the table
  23. Napoleon was a difficult client to shave as he was never stable, would keep talking continuously, and would toss and turn frequently. Hats off to the attentiveness of his barber who despite this managed to not inflict a single cut on Napoleon!
  24. Saved the weirdest for the last: Napoleon claimed that he never felt his heartbeat. It has also been reported that his doctor never felt any pulsation upon placing his hands upon Napoleon’s chest.