The amazing story of Napoleon Bonaparte's penis

The amazing story of Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis

Stored in a small leather box, the human penis has deteriorated and dried up over time, as a human penis is kept locked and keyed by the daughter of an American urologist. Measuring 3.8 cm, the human piece is an exotic relic. It would be the sexual member of the French statesman and military leader Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), one of the most famous political figures in human history.

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There is more mystery than confirmation about the odd piece. The author of an article on the subject, historian Vitor Soares, who maintains the podcast História em Meia Hora, told BBC News Brasil that when it comes to this, “things are not consensual”.

He notes, “Although people have long been certain that the penis is his, there is a possibility that it is not. It has not really been proven that it is.”

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A research group member at Universidade Estadual Paulista and professor at Colégio Presbiteriano Mackenzie Tamboré and historian Victor Messiato has a similar view. “It is difficult to prove that this penis actually belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte, because there is no study linking the genetic material of this penis to that of Napoleon buried in France,” he said, in conversation with the report. “For the time being, with the technologies available, that would be possible, and it would be worth it.”

“There is a path [do órgão sexual atribuído ao estadista]. It is possible that this is because at that time there was already a historical significance, a meaning about Napoleon”, explains Messiato.

This path has been extensively recovered by historian and journalist Tony Perrottet in his book Special Napoleon: 2500 Years of Uncompressed History. Starting with what proved to be infamous: that when he died on the island of Saint Helena, on May 5, 1821, he underwent an autopsy.

If the party has already been brought up, it will likely be in front of witnesses. Reports indicate that there were 29 people close to Bonaparte’s body from death to preparation for burial, including eight doctors, two maids, a priest and a servant.

Physician François Carlo Antomarechi (1780-1838) could have performed a penile amputation. Some believe it was out of revenge because he would have been tasked somewhat reluctantly with a season on the island to deal with Bonaparte’s already deteriorating health – he suffered from a stomach ulcer and may have died of cancer -.

To make matters worse, the doctor was mistreated by his brilliant patient, who often greeted him with spitting and swearing.

The path of the sexual organ

According to Perrottet’s research, Antomarchi could have sold the intimate artifact to the Italian priest Ange Paolo Vignali, responsible for giving Bonaparte a boost. He took her to Corsica – the birthplace of the deceased as well as the priest.

Soares says that the contradictions really started there, because other theories accuse the priest himself of subtracting the noble organ, and others work with the possibility that everything was arranged among the attending physicians – since parts of the characters’ body were removed and preserved is not uncommon in history.

In 1916, British antiquities maker Maggs Bros purchased the piece that had been kept by the Corsican priest’s family. Over the next five decades, the sexual organ attributed to the former French emperor became the subject of curiosity around the world.

The hand of the penis changed after a few years. Considered “auction room horror”, for his always strong financial involvement in auctions promoted by Sotheby’s in London, American book collector and bookseller Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach (1876-1952) purchased a lot of gems in 1924. The collection included a Napoleon jewel.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is one of the most famous political figures in human history – Image: Public Domain / via BBC

Since then, when the piece was moved to the United States, those documents began to exist – unstable of course – to try to prove its authenticity. Rosenbach’s private company published a catalog in the 1920s asserting that “the remarkable effect was recently confirmed by the publication in the Revue des Deux Mondes of an excerpt from Saint-Denis’ posthumous memoirs, in which he explicitly says that he and Vignali took small objects cut off from Napoleon’s body during an autopsy.” “.

Interestingly enough, the catalog uses a euphemism to name the member. The text says it was “a mummified tendon taken from the body of Napoleon during an autopsy”. Street. Denis, quoted in the text, was Louis Étienne Saint-Denis (1788-1856), the personal servant of the former emperor.

It was Rosenbach who put the penis as it is today in a blue velvet Moroccan leather case. According to the official text of the present Rosenbach organization, which maintains a museum and library spin off from its founder’s collection, the collector was “pleased” when he spoke “of the infamous antiquities of Napoleon.”

In 1927, the piece was shown to the public at the Museum of French Art in New York. According to press reports at the time, the show sparked “emotional sighs” and “women’s laughter.” Napoleon’s penis has been compared to a “wrinkly eel”.

Rosenbach sold the remains to one of his best clients, Donald Friesel Hyde (1909-1966), who was president of the American Bibliographical Society. When he died, his widow returned possession of the object to Rosenbach’s successors.

Shortly thereafter, the famous penis was purchased by collector Bruce Gilmeson. He tried to auction the organ at Christie’s auction house in London in 1972. It was unsuccessful. Without receiving a minimum bid, the device returned to the Gilson Collection.

The urologist who saved the limb

Five years later, American urologist John Kingsley Latimer (1914-2007), a notorious professor at Columbia University, used to collect historical objects – the family hired him to analyze evidence of the JFK assassination (1917-1963). ), kept a piece of the upholstery of the presidential limousine where the president was then when he was shot.

Since then, Napoleon’s penis has regained its privacy. Lattimer didn’t flaunt the famous member, reserving it only for inner circles – and it’s estimated that fewer than 10 people have seen him since.

It was the urologist who promoted the version that the excision of the sexual organ occurred out of revenge on the part of the doctor, as a form of revenge for the impolite manner in which the former French statesman treated him.

When Latimer died, possession of the sexual organ went to his daughter. Which closely follows the father’s request: not to show the penis to any curious person.

Bonaparte and the Sphinx, by Jean-Leon Jerome – Image: Public Domain / via BBC

Soares recalls that the sexual organ was not the only piece of Napoleon Bonaparte’s body that could have been removed at the time of the autopsy. In Servant Denise’s memoirs, for example, he stated that he would use a moment of distraction from the doctors to pose himself with some pieces of the deceased’s rib.

It is said that the former emperor himself wished to have his heart removed by his death and to send it as a gift to his wife – but this wish was not fulfilled.

The idea of ​​preserving organs and tissues from dead figures was not uncommon throughout history. Here, the heart condition of Dom Pedro I (1798-1834) is famous, brought to the country this week to take part in celebrations of the bicentennial of independence – he proclaimed, who would become the first Emperor of Brazil.

In Pátio do Colégio, the historic center of São Paulo, there is a human bone attributed to the religious José de Anchieta (1534-1597), a Jesuit priest who was one of the city’s founders and is now considered a saint by the Catholic Church. In the Basilica dedicated to Saint Anthony (1195-1231) in Padua, Italy, it is possible to see the language that would have belonged to the monk famous as a miracle worker.

“This practice is related to the Christian tradition,” Messiato points out. “The idea of ​​the body as a sacrifice dates back to pre-Christian times, but later grows proportionately.” According to his interpretations, this originally religious image acquires national features when national states begin to appear.

“There is a clear relationship between nationalities, which fit Christian values ​​and produce new symbols, heroes and new stories, with this type of worship,” he says.

“Thus, great national leaders are built up as heroes. In this sense, the idea of ​​accessing these materials, these relics, is a way to seize the power of these personalities,” he adds. “This stirs the national imagination. In national projects, this appropriation of indigenous Christian symbols is common. These heroes of the past, as well as the present, appear as eternal.”

This text was originally published at

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