1. Though the future emperor of France was baptized as Napoléon, his parents nicknamed him Nabulio. In fact, there’s a restaurant called Nabulio in Nice, France, aptly located on Rue Bonaparte.
2. He became France’s ruler, but Napoleon Bonaparte was not a Frenchman by birth nor was French his native language. He was born on the island of Corsica, which was sold to France by the Italian state of Genoa shortly before Napoleon’s birth. It is said that he never fully mastered French, and his spelling left a lot to be desired.
3. At school, teachers found young Napoleon to be domineering and stubborn, suggesting—correctly, as it turned out—that he should look for a job in the army.
4. Although he was a fierce commander who conquered much of Europe, Napoleon was reportedly terrified of cats and open doors.
5. His short stature spawned the famous term, “Napoleon complex,” to describe the feelings of inferiority in short men. But historians now believe he was actually 5’6, a common height for men in the late 18th and early 19th century.
6. In 1795, when Napoleon was 26, he wrote a romance novel titled Clisson et Eugénie. The book was never published during his lifetime. Although various excerpts were released after his death, the English translation wasn’t reconstructed until 2009.
7. Before Napoleon, horse riders and carriages in Europe rode on the left side of the road. But when he became emperor, Napoleon changed the sides in order to surprise his enemies. Only Great Britain, which Napoleon never conquered, still drives on the left side of the road.
8. After his crushing defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon considered emigrating to the United States. He even requested two warships to take him and his staff across the Atlantic, but the British navy refused to let him sail.
9. Napoleon reportedly wore a packet of poison on a cord around his neck. But when he used it shortly after his exile to Elba in 1814, the poison had lost its potency and made Napoleon violently ill.
10. As a sign of respect for the former emperor, for hundreds of years, it had been illegal for the French people to name their pigs Napoleon.