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Was Napoleon’s penis his biggest secret?                  Source: denissimonov / Adobe Stock

The Journey of Napoleon’s Penis: Here’s the Long and the Short of It

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Perhaps the only thing more satisfying than a “big” story is one where celebrity and bizarre personal details combine to create an even bigger story.  This is certainly true in the fascinating and ongoing history of Napoleon’s penis. The man was a celebrity in his time and hugely successful but apparently Napoleon’s penis was not so huge.

Napoleon’s Penis: The Broad Strokes Of Its Existence

Napoleon Bonaparte, or more accurately, “Le Petit Caporal,” (in every way) was one of the most famous French statesmen and commanders of all time. He strode out of the French Revolution, victorious, and became Napoleon I, Emperor of France. He ruled from 1804 until 1814 and again in 1815, during the Hundred Days. According to a 2016 article in Time, many people have been “fixated on Napoleon's penis since Napoleon's doctor allegedly cut it off during his autopsy in 1821 and gave it to a priest in Corsica.” Over the years this famous “dead” penis has been likened to a piece of dry leather, a shriveled eel, and beef jerky.

And if this were not shame enough, in 1927 his manhood was compared to a “maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace,” when it was “displayed in Manhattan.” Clearly, this is the twisted story of how one of the most legendary military leaders of all time kept such a thing secret during his lifetime.

Napoleon in his day and nothing about him says he’s small. (Georgios Kollidas / Adobe Stock)

Napoleon in his day and nothing about him says he’s small. (Georgios Kollidas / Adobe Stock)

The Hands That Touched Napoleon’s Beef Jerky

In 1977, Dr. John Lattimer, a professor emeritus and former chairman of urology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a practicing urologist living in New Jersey, bought the “petit penis” for $3,000. When he died 30 years later, Napoleon's member fell into the hands of Lattimer’s daughter. A Vintage News article quotes writer Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped, as saying it had taken on “quite a mythic status.” According to Perrottet, after Napoleon died on the island of St. Helena in 1821, his physician placed the body part in a “little leather presentation box” but without formaldehyde. For this reason, it dried out and came to look “a bit like beef jerky.”

Priests are known for trading and buying religious relics and historically significant artifacts. It should come as no surprise that a man of the church was the first to really get his hands on Napoleon’s “dead” penis. The priest, Abbé Ange Paul Vignali, is believed to have smuggled the little presentation case into Corsica, where it fell into the hands of a British collector in 1916. Later that year, Maggs Bros, the distinguished London antiquarian booksellers, bought Napoleon’s penis from the descendants of Abbé Ange Paul Vignali.

According to a research article on the History of Information, Maggs held the Vignali collection of Napoleon memorabilia for eight years before selling it in 1924 for £400 (then $2000) to the American antiquarian bookseller Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach.

At this stage, the actual size of Napoleon’s penis was only a “story” or part of a story in a memoir by the priest Vignali that was published in 1852 in Revue des [Deux] Mondes, where it was written that the priest had “removed certain unnamed portions of Napoleon's corpse during the autopsy.”

Dr. Rosenbach, the 1924 American buyer, “enshrined the penis in an elaborate blue morocco and velvet box.” In 1924, listed as item number 9 in a Description of the Vignali Collection of the Relics of Napoleon, the semi-mythical penis is described as follows:

“A mummified tendon taken from Napoleon's body during the postmortem. (The authenticity of this remarkable relic has lately [in 1852!] been confirmed by the publication in the Revue des Deux Mondes of a posthumous memoir by St. Denis, in which he expressly states that he and Vignali took away small pieces of Napoleon's corpse during the autopsy.)”

Napoleon during the Russian campaign of 1812, one of the few he lost. (Emilio Ereza / Adobe Stock)

Napoleon during the Russian campaign of 1812, one of the few he lost. (Emilio Ereza / Adobe Stock)

The Ultimate Fate Of Napoleon’s Penis

In 1977, Dr John Lattimer, the New York urologist who purchased Napoleon s dismembered penis for $3,000. And according to the Twisted Story of Napoleon's Privates author Tony Perrottet, the neurologist also owned “Abraham Lincoln's bloodstained collar and a treasure trove of items from his own idiosyncratic relationships to some of the most important historical events of the 20th century. He was an attending urologist to Nazi prisoners at the Nuremberg trials and acquired Herman Goering's suicide vial. He worked on the autopsy of John F. Kennedy and possessed upholstery from the president's limousine in Dallas.”

Before Lattimer died in 2007, he was offered $100,000 for his maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace.” But the famous penis was never sold and it passed down to his son Mark Evans, who according to Mental Floss, said Dad believed that urology should be proper and decent and not a joke.” In keeping with his father’s professional integrity, Evans said he also never intended to put the little relic on exhibition. Since his father’s death, only allowed 10 people have ever see this special penis. The artifact has also “never been photographed or filmed,” since it passed into the Lattimer family.

Mark Evans is something of a penis specialist himself, having “seen a lot of penises, from a chihuahua to a sperm whale,” according to an interview with The Independent in 2014. This news piece was published with the sensational, and quite brilliant headline: “ Napoleon's penis size confirmed: Channel 4 documentary calls the artifact 'very small.’”

Now, nearly two centuries after his death, the French military and political leader is becoming remembered in history for having a very small” penis that measured a modest 1.5 inches (3.8 cm). And reflecting on the famous penis, Mark Evans, its current owner, says he finds it strange how “the withered penis has ventured further around the world than Napoleon ever did.” A near-genius observation…

Did Napoleon Suffer Micropenis Aggression?

While Napoleon is often described as “great,” just as many historians have called him “evil.” Knowing what we now know, it is highly probable that Napoleon’s violent drive to conquer was inspired by a deep inner micropenis aggression.

This deep inner hatred was also reflected in the evil of Hitler who, according to an article in Maxim, had a “tiny, deformed penis and one testicle” leading him to take heavy hormone and IV amphetamine injections to improve his sex drive, which was depleted with reduced testosterone.

Maybe with a reduced sex drive or a small penis, while 99.9% of men are constantly chasing females, these famous men put their life energy into building and destroying empires.

Top image: Was Napoleon’s penis his biggest secret?                  Source: denissimonov / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie


Charles Hamilton, A uction Madness [1980], page 54-55.

ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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