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Rare Facts About Napoleon You Didn’t Know

Napoleon Bonaparte was a famous military tactician and influential statesman often referred to as one of history’s great leaders. Despite his successful campaigns against others, it was his height he was most famous for. The military leader seized power of France in 1799, becoming the first consul.

This allowed him to oversee and maintain military dominance and institute his own influential legal reforms.

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While much of his military his is well known around there world, here are a few facts about Napoleon Bonaparte that few people know:

1. He Wrote a Romance Novel

Although Bonaparte appeared a ruthless and battle-hardened commander of a large military, the man was a lovestruck romantic at heart. When he was just 26 in 1795, Napoleon penned a novel titled Clisson et Eugenie and was only about 17 pages. It is considered a brief exercise in self-mythologizing.

2. Josephine, his first wife, narrowly escaped the guillotine

If there’s anyone in history that received a heavenly blessing of convenient timing, it was Napoleon’s first wife, Josephine.

She had married a man named Alexandre de Beauharnais (to whom she bore three children) when she was about 16 years old. Her husband was executed at the guillotine during the “Reign of Terror,” a particularly bloody point in the French Revolution.

While Josephine herself was imprisoned, the government at the time was deposed the day before her trial, and all executions ceased. Napoleon and Josephine met at a party in 1795 when she was 32 and he was 26. They married six months later, Josephine becoming younger from taking 4 years off her age, and Napoleon adding 18 months to his age.

Although the age gap in real life was substantial, their edits to their own personal information made them closer in age.

3. He Wasn’t Actually Short

The height rumor was nothing something created during the modern day but actually began during Napoleon’s time. Propaganda artists had begun drawing images of Napoleon, who appeared comically shorter than he actually was.

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Although he inspired the naming of the “Napoleon Complex,” the military general and leader was of average height for his time, standing at a height of five-foot-six.

4. Napoleon’s Army Discovered the Rosetta Stone

Early in his life, Napoleon Bonaparte considered himself a scientist. He even elected membership into the National Institute. During an expedition with scientists, engineers, and scholars, Captain Pierre Francois-Xavier Bouchard had discovered the slab after the destruction of an ancient wall.

The stone slab is named after the city it was found in. Realizing the potential it might carry, he sent it off to be studied in Cairo. After some extensive linguistic work, the stone slab was able to help decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

5. Napoleon’s Empire Attempted to Spread Religious Tolerance

Although he was baptized Catholic as a child, his writings question Catholicism itself and if any gods really existed. After rising to power in France, Napoleon made certain to re-establish the Catholic Church.

When he came to lands where Jews had been persecuted, Bonaparte had emancipated them, allowing them the freedom to owner property and worship freely. This was another tactic by the famously general, one he hoped would attract Jews to French-controlled territories.

6. He Probably Died of Stomach Cancer

Bonaparte died in exile on St. Helena at the age of 51 in 1821. After his personal physician gave the French emperor a stomach cancer diagnosis. It was reported he suffered constant abdominal pain and nausea frequently before dying.

Rumors circulated that his death was associated with arsenic poising, a 1961 analysis of his hair fueling the rumor. While the arsenic levels of his hair samples were through the roof, it was common for others to have the same levels detected in the same era.

Though it was not the direct cause, the arsenic and toxic chemicals pushed as tonic at the time probably helped make it easier for cancer t spread.

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7. He Wore Poison Around His Neck

With a man who carried out so many successful campaigns, it’s not surprising he had a vial of ‘suicide poison’ ready and waiting. After his exile to the island of Elba, Napoleon ingested the poison and though it didn’t kill him, it made him violently ill.

It’s likely that, over time, the poison lost its potency.

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