Napoleon's Little Buddy

First post here; not sure if you all get this picky, but was anybody else confused by the reference this week to Vignali’s descendants being in possession of Napoleon’s supposed penis?

Cecil’s answer referred to Vignali as a (presumably Catholic) priest present at the autopsy.

Now I understand that priests don’t always honor their vows, but I’m wondering if Cecil’s answer was a mistake.

Link to column?

Confused, meaning why would a Catholic priest have condoned an autopsy at which bits of the deceased were abstracted for, uh, private use? One could think of a few reasons involving the prominence of the recently demised, but it’s probably another argument against the authenticity of the alleged Imperial dingus.

If the thing is real there are at least a couple historical questions a careful scientific examination might answer. One, was Napoleon’s death hastened by his British captors? It has been alleged (and evidence from locks of Napoleon’s hair advanced as proof) that the British poisoned Napoleon with arsenic, most probably in his wine, in order ensure his speedy demise and put a stop to any post-exilic Imperial ambitions.

Two, did the Emperor suffer from disuria (that is, difficult and painful urination) to an extent that might have affected his ability to direct his subordinates during the Waterloo campaign that resulted in the destruction of his army and his exile to St. Helena?

So we see the truth of the Napoleonic maxim that every common soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his knapsack borne out by the fact that the answers to such important political and military questions could be revealed through a careful examination of his – privates.

No – confused by the reference to descendants of a(n ostensibly) celibate man.

Ah. Could have been collateral descendants I suppose, that is, his nieces and nephews and their descendants. Not that ostensibly celibate Catholics (up to and including several Popes) haven’t had (illegitimate of course) descendants in direct line, as you note.

If I’m not mistaken, a priest must be celebate after taking his vows. I don’t know how common it has been for a father to become a Father, but I don’t think there’s any rule against it.

(I obviously don’t know if this applies in this case.)

Nope, no rule that I know of that doesn’t allow a man who has previously fathered children to be a priest.

I’ve heard of widowers becoming priests in their later years.

Since, if I’m not mistaken, Napoleon was being held by the British – is it possible that Vignali was a preist in the Church of England (Anglican)? Married preists are the norm in that tradition.

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Nick, glad to have you with us.

Aren’t certain priests within the Catholic Church allowed to marry (Eastern ones, converts from Anglicanism)?

Vignali was quite definitely a Catholic priest…

…and you don’t have to be married to have descendants. :smiley:

He could also have had nieces and/or nephews, which would count as “descendants”.


Yes. Priestly celibacy isn’t a religious rule, just an organizational one. (Considering the level of alcoholism among Protestant clergy wives, and the fact that any amount of delinquency can be dismissed offhand with the two words, “Preacher’s kid”, you have to admit they have a point.) Because it is just organizational, it can be dismissed with for good reasons.

Offhand, though, I think, while married men can, under certain circumstances, become priests, men who are already priests cannot be married. That’s the same rule as the Eastern church.

As an amateur genealogist, I’ve always thought of “descendants” as being one’s offspring and their descendants, not assorted nieces, nephews, etc.

No big deal. We call drinking fountains “bubblers” in these parts.

Why, thank you! Looks like a fun and lively crowd here.

From Urban Legend Archive: