Of course he was a bit of a short fellow, though his height was actually considered average for that era. He had some narcissistic qualities that made him a loved and hated figure at the same time. There’s no arguing the fact that he wore a pretty awesome hat. Yet the more we learn about Napoleon Bonaparte, the more we realize that there were subtleties to him that have long been overlooked.
1. Cats: The Key to Victory
If there was one thing that Napoleon hated in this world, it was cats. He was deathly afraid of them and would plan his days around avoiding contact with them. Known as Ailurophobia, part of the reason why his social skills were considered lacking was likely because he was trying to avoid situations where a cat might rub up against his leg and whisper a gentle “meow.”
2. Size Matters
It was Napoleon’s teachers who encouraged him to join the military, so maybe there is so blame to lay at the feet of the French educational system. What was unique about his military leadership is that Napoleon preferred to surround himself with very tall soldiers. His elite guard made him seem quite tiny indeed, which was probably part of his overall strategy. After all, if someone is that small compared to tall soldiers, would you take them seriously?
3. An Illegal Notion
One of the classic novels that educational systems have children read growing up is George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The name of the pig in the novel is Napoleon – you’ll have to read the book to figure out why, but it is pretty self-explanatory. Except in France, it is illegal to name a pig “Napoleon.” Seriously. You can go to jail for doing that is someone is in a bad enough mood. If you pick up this book in France, the pig’s name has been changed to Caesar. Go figure.
4. Keep to the Right
Throughout the world, most countries have transportation systems that are based on right-handed travel. England is a notable exception to this, where the system is based on left-handed travel. This means most countries in the world today are still following Napoleon Bonaparte in at least one way. He’s the one who changed the world standard from driving your chariots on the left to driving them on the right. Maybe he was tired of all those right lane road hogs.
5. Beaten By a Computer
Computing technology, robotics, and automation were capturing the imaginations of the world at the time Napoleon was busy trying to conquer Europe. Never one to be upstaged, he took on “The Turk,” which was billed as an automatic chess playing machine. What Napoleon didn’t know was that the machine was actually controlled by a human inside of it. Maybe the loss at chess that Napoleon experienced should have been a lesson he transferred over to his military idealism.
6. A Man of the People
One thing Napoleon did extremely well. He always seemed to have a good read on how his people were thinking and feeling at any given moment. Napoleon was able to have this information because he’d change into the clothes that were worn by the poor and wander the streets of Paris. He’d ask people questions about himself to see how good or bad his reputation was faring. From that, he would alter his plans accordingly so that he was always seen in a favorable light.
7. That’s Not Your Name
Napoleon found himself married to a beautiful woman who had a rather lengthy name. Her first name was Marie, however, and Napoleon found himself not so attracted to that fact. Rather than find a woman with a more attractive name, he decided to rename his wife. He decided to call her Josephine instead, which was a variation of one of her middle names. Of course if you were the in-laws and the ruler of France wanted to change your daughter’s name as he conquered stuff, you might just grin and bear it too.
8. That’s a Tasty Meal
Here’s the other way that the rest of the world is still following the example of Napoleon Bonaparte. Because his troops were constantly engaged in battle during all that conquering stuff, food supplies often needed to be transported halfway across the European continent. Natural foods tend to something called “spoiling,” so long transportation distances were impossible. To counter this issue, French troops became the first to use canned foods on a consistent basis.
9. Shut the Front Door
It wasn’t just cats that Napoleon had a fear of encountering. He also really hated having a door that was open. If he was in a room and someone needed to come speak with him, Napoleon would force that person to squeeze through the narrowest opening possible so the door wouldn’t need to be fully opened at any time. This is where his reputation of being insecure developed. If someone didn’t shut the door immediately, it was said that Napoleon could create an effective “Queen of Hearts” impression – off with your head!
10. Sleep Is For the Weak
Napoleon might have been afraid of a number of things, but one thing he was definitely not afraid of was work. His actions fit the classic definition of the modern workaholic. He would only get 3-4 hours of sleep on most nights because he felt like France couldn’t properly exist without him. There’s also the fact that maybe a rogue cat might open his bedroom door and sit on his chest while sleeping. Definitely the stuff of nightmares right there.
11. It’s the Blue Pill
During the whole conquering bit, Napoleon wore a poison packet around his neck so he wouldn’t have to deal with being captured, deported, or all that other good stuff that comes to a wannabe world conqueror that loses. In 1814, when he finally tried to use it, the poison had lost just enough of its edge that it didn’t kill him. It just made him really sick, which likely made all of the watching cats laugh in glee.
12. Silence is Golden
Napoleon had a strange addiction to roast chicken and potatoes. It was the most common thing he ate and so focused on the food’s flavor was he that he demanded silence throughout a meal. If you thought Napoleon got angry at a front door, then be the guy who tried talking military strategy when a drumstick was in being enjoyed.
Napoleon Bonaparte may not always be remembered fondly by history, but his unique personality has certainly made for some interesting lists and observations over the years. These fun facts just add to that long-running legacy.