Peter the (quite literally) great

Peter the Great is a towering figure in Russian history, arguably deserving of his soubriquet from successes at war, political and social reforms and the successful founding of St. Petersburg, throwing open Russia’s window onto Europe. As a particularly effective Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, Peter was a dominant and imposing force for over 40 years.

Using adjectives such as ‘great’, ‘towering’, ‘imposing’ and ‘dominant’ are particularly apt for this monarch, as Peter was both metaphorically and literally a giant. He reached the height of 6’ 8” (2 metres), enough to take him head, shoulders and probably even nipples above his contemporaries.

It was enough to put him a massive 1’ 4” above the average male height for the time (the European average was approximately 5’ 4”). The tallest British monarch was Edward IV of England whose height has been estimated at 6’ 4”. Set against other world leaders, he would be four inches taller than the tallest U.S. presidents (Lincoln was 6’ 4” (193 cm) and Johnson 6’3½ (192cm))

His appearance was noted by an Italian poet visiting the Russian court. He recorded that:

“Tsar Peter was tall and thin, rather than stout. His hair was thick, short, and dark brown; he had large eyes, black with long lashes, a well-shaped mouth, but the lower lip was slightly disfigured … For his great height, his feet seemed very narrow. His head was sometimes tugged to the right by convulsions.”

Peter is commemorated by a suitably imposing monument in St. Petersburg. The Bronze Horseman features Peter on horseback, a 6 metre tall statue on top of a 7 metre pedestal.

My research suggests that Peter the Great was easily the tallest ever monarch – indeed, I can’t find any other leader that was taller. Let me know if you have any better, taller suggestions!

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