13 March 2006
Napoleon – The Little General
by Paul A.
You’ve probably heard the rumor, but in case you haven’t, it goes like this: somebody chopped off Napoleon’s dick, it’s still around somewhere, and buddy, it is small. Not just changing clothes while facing the corner small. We’re talking pinkie finger, “is it in yet” small. Turn-away-in-embarrassment if you happen to sneak a peek kind of small.
Napoleon’s bone – apart (bad pun perhaps, but it was allegedly chopped off) is certainly a contender for the world’s most famous preserved penis in history. Maybe even more famous than Rasputin’s or Dillinger’s. Type “Rasputin” and “Penis” into Google and you get 77,800 hits. Type “Napoleon” and “Penis” and you get 618,000. Mind you, “Donald Duck” and “Penis” gets you 235,000 hits, and he’s dickless, so maybe this isn’t such a good measure.
The truth about Napoleon’s tool is difficult to ascertain. All we can say with certainty is that something reported to be Napoleon’s dick is in the possession of a Dr. Kenneth Latimer. Latimer says he purchased the putative penis at an auction for $3,000. He keeps his trophy in a jewel box, protected by bees (I kid you not) and he won’t let anybody see it, photograph it or otherwise verify whether it’s Napoleon’s dick, someone else’s dick, or even a dick at all. Now, Latimer is a urologist by profession, and on this last point, as Cecil Adams observed, “if anybody knows, he should.” As a side note, Latimer’s medical career has been augmented by stints as a writer and conspiracy theory analyst and collector of weird stuff – he owns the bloody seat covers from Kennedy’s assassination.
The question of whether it is in fact a penis stems from descriptions of the penis offered by witnesses to the only ever showing of this... thing. That was way back in 1927 when the item was displayed at the Museum of French Art. Observers described it variously as a “maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace” and “a shriveled eel,” about an inch long. Neither of these sounds like a penis of any sort and no pictures exist that I could find, so these brief descriptions are all we have to go on.
If we assume for the time being that it is in fact a penis, the question arises as to whether or not it’s Napoleon’s penis. According to the memoirs of Napoleon’s manservant, Ali, published in an 1852 issue of Revue de Mondes, the penis was hacked from the body following the post mortem by Abbe Vignali, a priest who administered Napoleon’s last rites. Now, Ali could have been lying, but the fact that the item currently in Dr. Latimer’s possession can be traced directly to Vignali’s descendants does lend credence to the claim. Why Ali and Vignali would go to the trouble of sneaking into the autopsy tent to cut off some dead guy’s trouser-snake is unknown. Vignali had come into Napoleon’s service a couple of years before his death and it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that Napoleon had somehow wounded Vignali’s feelings during this period. Napoleon was famously ill-tempered and blunt, and apparently made a sport of insulting those assigned to his care. And what better way to extract revenge against the most powerful leader of the nineteenth century than by lopping off his shockingly small dick.
So how small was it? Well, if this thing in Latimer’s collection is what he claims, and if the descriptions of it are accurate, we’d have to assume it’s pretty damned miniscule. So small in fact, that some historians have speculated that he may have suffered from an endocrine (hormonal) disorder. But it must be remembered that there is very little substance to a penis. Its two largest components are the corpora cavernosa, two spongy sacks that fill with blood. Drain all the blood and fluid from a penis and there’s not much left. Add to that any decomposition that may have occurred before the organ completely dried out and even an average to large sized dick may not look like much more than a “shriveled eel” when it’s finally put on display. It must also be remembered that assuming Ali’s story is true; he and Vignali would not have had time to do much more than slice and run. It is very probable that they only managed to secure a portion of the “little general”.
The only way to know for sure would be to hack off some dead guy’s dick, dry it out completely and then compare the results with whatever Latimer has stashed away. Given that this is unlikely to happen, we’ll have to rely on other, more circumstantial evidence. Let’s start with his love life. Napoleon’s fabled lover, Josephine, was well known for her extramarital affairs in the early years of their marriage, (which suggests possible dissatisfaction). But when Napoleon finally confronted her about her infidelities, she stopped her wayward behavior and pined for the husband who now rejected her. One wonders, would she have done this if he only had a three inch dick?
Napoleon also had numerous affairs of his own. Sure, he was the Emperor of France and as Kissinger famously noted, power is an aphrodisiac. But if Napoleon was as spectacularly under-endowed as has been suggested, word would have spread through the gossipy courts of Europe, and it’s unlikely he would have been as romantically successful as he was. He wasn’t Rasputin by a long shot but the little guy still got around.
One way of ascertaining whether or not Napoleon had a petite penis might be to examine the many paintings of the man. Napoleon loved his image and commissioned numerous portraitures. This portrait of Napoleon painted at Tuileries Palace shows the unmistakable deformation of the pants otherwise known as “a package”, or as the French might say, “le lunchbox”. It’s not a giant salami by any means, but it looks to be about average. Now perhaps the painter, David Jacques Louis, was being flattering. Or perhaps, presaging Spinal Tap, Napoleon shoved a cucumber down his pants. We’ll never know, but perhaps there was more to the man than he’s been given credit for.