Inside The Bizarre Journey Of Napoleon’s Penis After The French Emperor’s Death

Published November 17, 2023
Updated November 29, 2023

Following his death in 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte's penis was allegedly removed from his body — and it has since been in the possession of everyone from his chaplain to an American urologist.

Napoleon Penis

Wikimedia CommonsAfter Napoleon’s death, his doctor cut off the famed general’s penis and gave it to a priest.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a force to be reckoned with in his time. The French emperor was a military genius who seized rule of his country at an opportune moment amid the fallout of the French Revolution and spread his empire across a significant portion of Europe and beyond.

But Napoleon’s ambition led to his downfall. After his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated his throne, and he was forced by the British to live the rest of his life in exile on the island of St. Helena. It was here that he died on May 5, 1821, at the age of 51.

Napoleon’s story does not end there, though. When a doctor was brought in to perform an autopsy on the former emperor, he made the odd decision to cut off Napoleon’s penis and give it to a priest, who then smuggled it to Corsica.

And the story just kept getting weirder.

What Happened To Napoleon’s Penis?

Napoleon was a mightily influential figure in the course of history, and as such, his life has been thoroughly scrutinized by a number of historians and scholars over the years. Like other figures throughout history, items that once belonged to Napoleon are highly sought after by collectors — and that includes his dismembered member.

But why this fascination with Napoleon’s penis?

Well, it’s not the first time a historical figure’s penis has been a point of interest. After all, there were numerous myths and legends surrounding Rasputin’s penis, a 12-inch organ that was allegedly pickled and put on display at the St. Petersburg Museum of Erotica.

Napoleon’s penis is famous for other reasons, though.

“It’s sort of a symbol to me of everything that’s interesting about history,” author Tony Perrottet said in an interview with NPR. Perrottet is perhaps the largest authority on Napoleon’s penis, having written an entire book about it: Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped. “It sort of combines love and death and sex and tragedy and farce all in this one story.”

Story Of Napoleon Bonaparte's Penis

Wikimedia CommonsNapoleon’s penis was reportedly just one-and-a-half inches long.

After Napoleon’s death, his doctor, Francesco Antommarchi, removed his penis and gave it to a priest by the name of Abbé Anges Paul Vignali. Vignali then smuggled the appendage to Corsica. There, he was killed in “a bizarre blood vendetta,” but he left the penis to his family — and they held onto it until 1916.

From there, ownership of Napoleon’s penis was transferred to a British collector. Then, in 1924, an American buyer purchased the penis and placed it in an elaborate velvet box. The penis was later put on display in New York in 1927. At the time, Perrottet said, “It was described as being like a piece of leather or a shriveled eel.”

That’s not a slight against Napoleon, of course. It’s an unfortunate reality that after his penis was removed, it wasn’t stored properly in formaldehyde or any other agent that would have helped it better stand the test of time.

Apparently, around this time, the French government was given the chance to buy Napoleon’s penis back, but they refused — and wouldn’t even admit that it really existed.

“They didn’t touch the penis,” Perrottet said. “They wouldn’t have anything to do with the penis.”

So, rather than becoming the property of the French government, Napoleon’s penis shifted hands several times before coming under the ownership of urologist and Columbia University professor Dr. John K. Lattimer, who purchased the sex organ for just $3,000 at auction.

Where Is Napoleon’s Penis Today?

John Lattimer was an acclaimed urologist, but he had a diverse array of hobbies. He was a ballistics expert and collector of historical relics. He was also notable for treating top-ranking Nazis during the Nuremberg trials and for becoming the first non-governmental medical specialist allowed to examine evidence related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Lattimer also fancied himself a collector of curiosities. Per Ancient Origins, Perrottet said Lattimer owned things like “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.”

John Lattimer

XUrologist John K. Lattimer, who purchased Napoleon’s penis for $3,000.

Lattimer came to be in possession of Napoleon’s penis in 1977 largely because he wanted to take it out of circulation. Lattimer said the penis had become “an object of derision,” and so once he obtained it, he put it in a briefcase and stored it under his bed.

When curious individuals inquired to see the penis, he denied them. According to Lattimer’s son, Evan, his father “believed that urology should be proper and decent and not a joke.” He was once offered a whopping $100,000 for the penis — but he refused to sell it.

Although Lattimer died in 2007, Napoleon’s penis still belongs to his family, and to this day only about 10 people have seen it, including Perrottet. It has never been photographed or filmed.

But once again, the story doesn’t end there.

The Size Of Napoleon’s Penis — And How It Impacted The Famous Ruler

Napoleon Bonaparte

Wikimedia CommonsBoth Napoleon and Adolf Hitler were known for their rage — and both reportedly had small penises.

In 2014, the Independent published an article entitled “Napoleon’s penis size confirmed: Channel 4 documentary calls the artifact ‘very small,'” which revealed, nearly two centuries after his death, that the French emperor’s penis measured a modest one-and-a-half inches in length.

The revelation came as part of a Channel 4 documentary series called Dead Famous DNA, which sought to find the remains of famous historical figures, including Hitler’s hair, Elvis’ DNA, and, of course, Napoleon’s penis. The show was hosted by Mark Evans, who traveled to New Jersey to meet with Evan Lattimer and observe what the family called “Napoleon’s item.”

“It’s very small, but it’s famous for being small,” Lattimer said. “It’s perfect structurally, the university have done X-rays and examinations and it’s obviously what it is.”

“I’ve seen a lot of penises, from a chihuahua to a sperm whale. This is so withered,” Evans said. “The last place I would have expected to find it is in New Jersey. It’s strange how the withered penis has ventured further around the world than Napoleon ever did.”

Much has been said of Napoleon’s height over the years, but the truth is that Napoleon was actually of an average size for a Frenchman of his time. The “short Napoleon” trope largely originated with British cartoonists drawing the ruler with an incredibly small stature — a depiction which Napoleon despised.

This misconception gave us the term “Napoleon complex,” which refers to men of short stature who overcompensate for their height by acting overly aggressive. But upon the revelation of Napoleon’s penis size, some have suggested, perhaps humorously, that it was instead “micropenis aggression” that was the source of Napoleon’s rage.

Napoleon Political Cartoon

Public DomainAn English cartoon from 1803 titled “The King of Brobdingnag, and Gulliver” depicting a tiny Napoleon perched on the hand of King George III.

It’s a bit speculative, but it also draws comparison to another infamous historical figure known for his rage and, as a 2016 Maxim article revealed, his small penis: Adolf Hitler.

According to historians Jonathan Mayo and Emma Craigie, medical records confirmed that Hitler had a “tiny, deformed penis” and just one testicle. As a treatment for his various penile issues, Hitler’s doctor prescribed him with hormones and IV amphetamines.

In fact, it’s believed that Hitler had over 800 injections of amphetamines and methamphetamines while he ruled over Germany — drugs known to make people aggressive.

Napoleon may not have been subjected to the same drug-fueled treatment as Hitler, but it is an interesting side note that two of history’s angriest men each had incredibly small penises.

After learning about the weird story of Napoleon’s penis, read about the death of Albert Einstein — and the strange afterlife of his brain. Or, read about the time the man claiming to have the world’s largest penis was exposed as a fake.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.