Napoleon was famously short, in fact ‘Napoleon complex’ (the idea that men of short stature over-compensate by being overly-aggressive) is named after him. And he reputedly had a very small penis. Now, nearly two centuries after the French emperor’s death, Mark Evans has tracked down Napoleon’s penis for a new Channel 4 series.
In Dead Famous DNA, Mark sets out to find the remains of some of history’s most famous figures, including Adolf Hitler, Elvis Presley, Charles Darwin, John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon, Marlon Brando and King George III. A team of leading scientists then attempt to extract DNA from the relics and analyse their genome to solve some of the mysteries that have persisted around them.
In the second programme of the series - which airs on Wednesday, April 2nd on Channel 4 - Mark travels to New Jersey in the United States to come face-to-face with Napoleon’s penis.
The penis belongs to Evan Lattimer, who was bequeathed it by her father, a renowned urologist, who bought it at a Paris auction in 1977 for three thousand dollars.
“He bought it, he never showed it to anyone, he never told anyone. He just took it, put it under the desk and there it was,” says Evan Lattimer.
It was always referred to as the ‘Napoleon Item’ in the Lattimer household. “Dad believed that urology should be proper and decent and not a joke,” says Evan Lattimer.
The ‘item’ was supposedly cut off during Napoleon’s autopsy nearly two centuries ago by his resentful doctor and is around an inch and a half long.
“It was acquired in the autopsy,” says Evan Lattimer. “The manservant wrote ‘We took off pieces’ and it’s been in the inventory for a long time, usually they call it ‘a tendon’ or ‘a piece of flesh’.
The autopsy was carried out by Napoleon’s doctor, Francesco Autommarchi, in front of seventeen witnesses. The penis is then said to have been part of a collection of items owned by the priest who administered Napoleon’s last rites, Abbé Anges Paul Vignali, eventually passing through his family. The penis was among relics bought by American rare books dealer A.S.W. Rosenbach in 1924 and displayed at the Museum of French Art in New York in 1927. It was eventually auctioned in Paris in 1977 and bought by Evan Lattimer’s father, John K. Latimer, Professor of Urology at Columbia University.
“It’s very small, but it’s famous for being small,” says Evan Lattimer. "It’s perfect structurally, the university have done X-rays and examinations and it’s obviously what it is.”
Evan is very protective of her prized possession. Only around ten people have ever seen it and Evan will not allow it to be filmed or photographed. The penis is housed in a monogrammed box and it is in the packaging it was originally delivered in from the auction house.
“I’ve seen a lot of penises, from a Chihuahua to a Sperm Whale. This is so withered,” says Mark Evans. “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.”
To try to authenticate the story, Mark attempts to cross-match the DNA from the penis with another body part from Napoleon. Hair dealer, John Reznikoff, had three different locks of hair and Mark bought one for $3,000.
But Evan realised that to authenticate the penis would mean it being destroyed during testing, so she has decided to leave it intact.
The second part of Dead Famous DNA will be shown on Channel 4 on Wednesday, April 2nd at 9pm. Made by Double Act productions, it is produced, written and directed by Rob Davis. The executive producer is Alistair Cook.