Sense and Nonsense Of interest to???????????? Mostly stolen from other truly clever people.
Friday, April 15, 2016
After Waterloo, Napoleon was, well, cut to size. He abdicated power and was eventually captured by the British and placed in permanent exile on the remote, stony Atlantic isle of St. Helena. There, he died in 1821, in circumstances that are debated to this day.
An autopsy followed his death. During the procedure, according to some accounts, Napoleon's little Napoleon, as well as other vital organs, including his heart and stomach, was excised by the doctor. This was either an accident or done on purpose, depending on whom you believe.
It shouldn't be surprising, though, that there was curiosity in Napoleon's remains. For most of human history, we have been fascinated and obsessed with the stray body parts of famous people. Napoleon's second valet, present at the postmortem, wrote in his memoirs that the Corsican doctor, "taking advantage of a moment when the eyes of the English were not fixed on the body, had taken two little pieces from a rib."
These and other pieces of Napoleon supposedly came into the hands of an Italian priest. That apparently included the French commander's penis.
From there, the trail of Napoleon's alleged member gets a bit cloudy. It went from the priest's family to a London bookseller -- the item was politely listed in a catalog as "a mummified tendon" -- to a counterpart across the pond in Philadelphia. In 1927, these effects were exhibited in New York at the Museum of French Arts.
A Time magazine journalist attended the event, gazed at Napoleon's penis, and was not all that impressed. The publication likened it to "a maltreated strip of buckskin shoelace." Another newspaper described it as a "shriveled eel."