Napoleon Complex

Album: Foreverland (2016)
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Songfacts®:

  • This is one of two songs on Foreverland titled after famous historical figures, the other being "Catherine the Great." The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon explained to the BBC: "The reason is simply that, like most middle-aged men, I read quite a lot of history books. Apparently, that's a thing. I read an article about it: middle-aged, middle class men gravitate towards the history section in the book shop."
  • Hannon explained the inspiration for the song to The Sun:

    "The theory of the Napoleon Complex is that short people have an inbuilt lust for power due to their pitiful feelings of inadequacy. In which case I encounter someone with a Napoleon Complex every time I look in the mirror. And I'm only half-joking.

    I am not endowed with great physical stature and I've always been a bit of a control freak, especially when it comes to my band and my music. When it comes to world pop domination, it is my way, or the public motor vehicle transport artery. Of course, the theory was thoroughly debunked years ago, but I never allowed that to come between me and a good song.

    I am also quite fascinated by Monsieur Bonaparte of Napoleonic Wars fame. You've got to admit it pretty cool to have not just one war named after you but an entire series of wars. I do not, I hastily add, condone warfare as a means of problem solving.

    But neither can one feel anything but awe for this man, this not very big man, who successfully repelled the combined monarchies of Europe for 20 years. It was only when he decided to become a monarch himself that it went all the pear shaped."
  • Contrary to popular belief, Napoleon was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 foot 6.5 inches, making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 1800s.

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