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The Bizarre Journey of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Penis

Marea Harris

In 1977, an investor paid $3,000 to purchase the dismembered penis of the famous military leader and emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.

According to Time Magazine, the dismembered penis measured one and a half inches in length when it was purchased. The price was based on an unconventional “appraisal,” where each inch was deemed to be worth $1,000.

Perhaps the only thing stranger than the $3,000 purchase, is the dismembered organ’s 50-year trek across the Western World.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

“The penis had taken on quite a mythic status,” said Tony Perrottet, author of Napoleon’s Privates: 2,500 Years of History Unzipped. “It was in a little leather presentation box, and it had been fried out in the air. It hadn’t been put in the formaldehyde, so it as rather the worse for wear, a bit like beef jerky.”

According to Perrottet, Napoleon’s doctor took the penis during Napoleon’s autopsy, after Napoleon died on the island of St. Helena in 1821. The military giant had been exiled there and likely died of stomach cancer.

Napoleon on His Death Bed, by Horace Vernet, 1826.

Napoleon on His Death Bed, by Horace Vernet, 1826.

The doctor gave the penis to a priest, who smuggled it into Corsica, shortly before he was murdered. Next, the penis fell into the hands of a British collector in 1916.

Perrottet claims that the French government turned down an opportunity to buy the penis, and it went on to become a public relic for the next 50 years. In 1927, it was even put on display in New York by an American rare books dealer who had bought the penis in 1924.

Mort de Napoléon Ier à Sainte-Hélène, le 5 mai 1821, by Charles de Steuben, c. 1828

Mort de Napoléon Ier à Sainte-Hélène, le 5 mai 1821, by Charles de Steuben, c. 1828

Finally, in 1977, a urologist and professor decided to end the notoriety of Napoleon’s dismembered penis by purchasing it for $3,000. Not wanting to draw any more attention to the penis, Lattimer kept it under his bed and refused to show it to anyone who asked to see it.

Since then, rumors have circulated that a subsequent offer was made to purchase the penis for $100,000. If the offer was real, that would be a total return on investment of about 3,200 percent.

The sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte. Photo by Son of Groucho CC BY 2.0

The sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte. Photo by Son of Groucho CC BY 2.0

Had Lattimer decided to part with the penis, it would have been a more profitable investment than Facebook, Google, Microsoft or even Apple.

For example, on May 18, 2012, Facebook’s stock was priced at $38. Six years later, on August 7, 2018, the stock price was about $185. This is almost a 500 percent return on investment over a period of six years, making Napoleon’s penis potentially six and a half times more profitable than Facebook.

Historic Noblemen and their ridiculous nicknames

On August 19, 2004, Google’s stock was priced at $85. Fourteen years later, on August 7, 2018, their stock price was about $1,250. In spite of being a near 1,500 percent return on investment, Napoleon’s penis was potentially more than twice as profitable.

Napoleon is often represented in his green colonel uniform of the Chasseur à Cheval of the Imperial Guard, the regiment that often served as his personal escort, with a large bicorne and a hand-in-waistcoat gesture.

Napoleon is often represented in his green colonel uniform of the Chasseur à Cheval of the Imperial Guard, the regiment that often served as his personal escort, with a large bicorne and a hand-in-waistcoat gesture.

On March 13, 1986, Microsoft’s stock was priced at $21. Thirty-two years later, on August 7, 2018, the stock price was about $108. This is approximately a 500 percent return on investment over a period of more than three decades, making Napoleon’s penis potentially six times more profitable than Microsoft.

Actor dressed as Napoleon. Historical costume.

Actor dressed as Napoleon. Historical costume.

On December 12, 1980, Apple’s stock was priced at just $22. Thirty-eight years later, on August 7, 2018, the stock price was about $207. This is just shy of a 1,000 percent return on investment over a period of nearly forty years, making Napoleon’s penis potentially more than three times as profitable.

Read another story from us: Myths of History: Was Napoleon Bonaparte Short?

When Lattimer died in 2007, the famous penis went to his daughter Evan. No records exist that it has changed owners since then. On May 10, 2011, Time Magazine named Napoleon’s Penis as one of the “10 most famous stolen body parts.”


Marea Harris is a professional freelance writer with over 7 years of experience. Having an MBA from a reputable university in the UK, Marea has researched and written thousands of articles to date.