"No comment."— Edward Abbey after being asked if he had any last words.
"See in what peace a Christian can die!" — Joseph Addison, to his stepson.
Alexander the Great — (The answer to their fervent question of "To whom will the Empire go?"): "Τῷ κρατίστῳ (Tô kratistô)" — "To the strongest." Civil war ensued. Other historians state that his final fever rendered him speechless, so it's more likely that he didn't say this. Still others believe that he replied "To Craterus," and his generals just "conveniently" heard strongest instead. The Greek words are near identical, and Craterus wasn't present at Alexander's death.
Darius III of Persia, Worthy Opponent of Alexander the Great, after one of Alexander's men have given the dying man a final drink of water — "This is a final stroke of misfortune; that I should accept a service from you and not be able to return it. But Alexander will reward you for your kindness and the gods will repay him for his courtesy towards my mother and my wife and my children."
Salvodar Allende had one of the longest single sentence last words, "These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason".
"Do not disturb my circles!" (Μή μου τοὺς κύκλους τάραττε; Mē mou tous kyklous taratte) — Archimedes, to a Roman soldier who interrupted him as he was working. He mistakenly thought the old man was messing with his head and stabbed him to death. General Marcellus, the leader of the Roman attack on Syracuse, is said to have been enraged, as he considered capturing Archimedes alive one of his top priorities.
"Our destiny is to build a better future for our countries, a safe future (for) our children. We have to give them something better than what we inherited."— Hafez al-Assad, President of Syria, according to this.
It's fairly well established that Caesar said "Why, this is violence!" when he saw the knives coming out. What's less than certain is if he said "You too, my son?" when he saw Brutus amongst his killers.
He did indeed yell "Why, this is violence!" out of surprise; the Senate was only allowed to meet at places of religious significance,note That day the Senate was meeting at the Theater of Pompey, which was designated a temple of Venus Victrix—an aspect of Venus worshipped for good luck in conquest—to get around restrictions on construction of theaters. Yes, we know. which coincidentally (or not) were also lawful sanctuaries. Violence at the Senate house was a grave offense.
"Adhuc vivo...! (I still live!)" — attributed to Caligula, as he was stabbed to death.
Roman Emperor Vespasian's dying snark — "Oh, dammit — I think I'm becoming a god." (Ut puto, deus fio.)
"Acta est fabula, plaudite!" ("The play is finished, applaud!") — Augustus, Emperor of Rome
"Applaudite, amici, la commedia è finita." (Applaud, friends, the comedy is over.) — Ludwig van Beethoven, referencing Augustus.
"Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel" — George Appel, Jewish-American gangster, executed in electric chair.
American stage and film actress, and party animal, Tallulah Bankhead: "Codeine... bourbon..."
L. Frank Baum — "Now we can cross the Shifting Sands." (The Shifting Sands, in the Oz books, was the enchanted desert that cut Munchkinland off from the rest of the world.)
"Are you guys ready? Let's roll." — Todd Beamer, passenger of United 93 on September 11, 2001 (these were the last words heard by someone not on the aircraft, whether or not they were in fact his last words is unknown). He died when the aircraft he and a team of others was attempting to retake was intentionally crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
"In the name of Christ and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death" - Thomas Becket.
"Please, just one more minute, Mr. Executioner!" (« De grâce, monsieur le bourreau, encore un petit moment ! ») Jeanne Bécu, Countess du Barry, Louis XV's former mistress, begged this at Revolution time. It is said that du Barry's terrified pleading so upset the crowd that witnessed her execution that the Terror lost support and expired shortly thereafter.
As Alexander Graham Bell lay dying, his deaf wife signed to him "Please don't leave me." He signed back "No..." and died soon after.
William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid - "¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?" ("Who is it? Who is it?")
An explanation; Billy the Kid did not die in a blazing duel at high noon. He was shot in the dark (with a shotgun), ambush style. He had many enemies at his time of death and wanted to know which of them had him shot.
It was Sheriff Pat Garrett.
"Don't turn on the light." - Osama bin Laden, shortly after midnight on May 1, 2011, after the noise of the SEAL team had awakened the residents of his compound in Abbottabad.
The source for that quote is the book Manhunt by James Swanson. Al Jazeera's account of the raid has bin Laden telling the others to leave and reciting from the Koran in the minutes before the American soldiers burst in.
« Vive la France ! » ("Long Live France!") - Marc Bloch, French historian and La Résistance leader during the German occupation, right befor being shot to death by an execution squad.
Supposedly Humphrey Bogart's last words were "I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."
Napoleon Bonaparte's final words are variously rendered « France, armée, Joséphine » ("France, army, Josephine"), or « tête… armée… Mon Dieu ! » ("head… army… my God!"), or « tête d’armée » ("head of the army")
"Tell my mother I did it for my country" and "Useless, useless." (upon being shown his hands on his own request) — John Wilkes Booth.
A nicely snarky one from Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian — "I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct." (« Je vais — ou je vas — mourir, l'un et l'autre se dit ou se disent. »)
Lord Byron — "Now I shall go to sleep. Good night."
According to the friends who were at his bedside, Byron's last words were "My sister — my daughter!"
"I will pray to God in a language we both well understand." — Edmund Campion, English Jesuit and Roman Catholic martyr, when told by Protestant onlookers to pray in English rather than Latin. (When asked whom he was praying for, he replied, "Yea, for Elizabeth, your queen and my queen, unto whom I wish a long quiet reign with all prosperity.") He was then hanged, cut down while still alive, his penis cut off and his entrails pulled out of his body and burned, and his body at last hacked into four parts.
"Then, at least you can aim at the spot where I'll place my hand" ("Al menos apunten al lugar donde colocaré mi mano") — Jose Miguel Carrera, hero of the Chilean War of Independence. As he was to be executed via firing squad, Carrera asked to giving the firing order and was turned down, so this was the alternative he came up with. His wish was granted.
"Can it be that the firing squad is still in use in Romania?" — Allegedly, Elena Ceauşescu. Note: It was.
Her husband Nicolae Ceauşescu died shouting: <Trăiască Republica Socialistă România! Liberă și independentă!> — "Long live the Socialist Republic of Romania! Free and independent!" If the economy doesn't recover soon...
"We have a bad fire! We're burning up!" - astronaut Roger Chaffee, trapped inside the Apollo 1 spacecraft as it caught fire during a ground test.
King Charles I of England gave a lengthy speech before being executed, finishing with "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown; where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world." His actual last words were to the axeman, about the chopping block: "You must set it fast." ... "It might have been a little higher." and when to make the stroke "When I put out my hands this way, then." ... "Stay for the sign."
"Don't let my little Nellie starve." — Charles II of England, on the subject of his favourite concubine, Nell Gwynne.
Somewhat earlier, he is said to have apologized to his courtiers — "I regret, gentlemen, that I should be such an unconscionable long time dying."
"No quiero morir. No me dejen morir." (I don't want to die. Please, don't let me die.) - Hugo Chávez
G. K. Chesterton — "The issue now is clear. It is between light and darkness; and everyone must choose his side." He then added to his secretary Dorothy Collins, who had just entered the room, "Hello, my dear."
"Take a step forward lads, it'll be easier that way." — Robert Erskine Childers, Irish nationalist. Before being executed by a firing squad, he took the time to shake their hands and offer them these words of advice.
"In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide." (Christine Chubbuck, news anchor, just before shooting herself in the head with a .38 on live TV)
"Don't, don't, don't! This could hurt someone!" — Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania State Treasurer, warning away people trying to stop him just before shooting himself on live television.
"Absolutely not!" - Montgomery Clift, after his secretary asked if he wanted to watch his film The Misfits, which was playing that night. He proceeded to his bedroom, where he suffered a fatal heart attack brought on by his drug problems.
Michael Collins (attributed), Head of the Irish Free State Army, after being shot by a sniper in the Irish Civil War — "No reprisals, lads."
"The City is fallen, but I am alive." (Ἡ Πόλις ἁλίσκεται καὶ ἐγὼ ζῶ ἔτι, Hê Polis alisketai kai egô zô eti.) — Constantine XI Palaeologus, the last emperor of the Byzantine Roman Empire. He then tore the Imperial insignia from his armor and charged into the fray. His body was never identified, and he was in all likelihood buried in a mass grave along with his men. So ended the last Emperor of Rome.
Stand-up comic Jason Cook dedicated a show and tour to his late father. It was named "Joy", in honour of his father's final words — "Have a good life, son. Cor. I know I have. It was fantastic."
"More weight." — Giles Corey, being tried-by-crushing-ordeal for witchcraft in Salem, asked if he would confess to his "crime."
An explanation: this guy was a Real LifeRules Lawyer, and knew that if he died under interrogation, he was still legally a Christian and his sons could inherit his property. Confessing would spare his life, but he would no longer be considered a Christian and his property would be forfeit. Denying the charges would result in his conviction and execution, as the trials were flagrantly rigged, and again his property would be forfeit. So, by refusing to enter any plea at all, he saved his family from poverty and earned a Dying Moment of Awesome.
"Dammit... don't you dare ask God to help me." — Joan Crawford, when her housekeeper began to pray aloud.
No one knows the last words of George Armstrong Custer, as all the soldiers with him died alongside him at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But the last words he was heard to say by a survivor (a messenger he'd sent off to the rest of the regiment) are pretty good:
Jack Daniel — "One last drink, please." Daniel died from sepsis caused by a broken toe, a toe he'd broken trying to kick open the safe holding his whiskey recipes. (He was drunk at the time.)
« Tu montreras ma tête au peuple, elle en vaut la peine ! » "You should show the people my head. It's worth the trouble!" — Georges Jacques Danton, en route to the guillotine.
According to Charles Darwin's daughter, his last words were "I am not in the least afraid to die." This dispels the popular myth that he recanted the theory of evolution on his deathbed.
Before she was decapitated during the Terror, feminist and abolitionist Olympe de Gouges said, "Enfants de la Patrie, vous vengerez ma mort" ("Children of the motherland, you will avenge my death").
"He'll see us." - James Dean. The other driver, who was making a left turn across Dean's right of way, didn't.
"I did not know that any man could suffer such pain!" — U.S. naval legend Stephen Decatur. He had been shot in a duel a few hours prior.
"Miss, I got what I really went for!" — Jeremy Delle, the inspiration behind Pearl Jam's "Jeremy". He was asked to get an attendance slip from the school office for being late, then returned with a Magnum revolver and shot himself in front of the class.
Walt Disney simply wrote down Kurt Russell's name before his death. No one, including Russell, has any idea what it means.
It is known that during the last few days of Walt's life he was feverishly scribbling down notes about projects he wanted to pursue, particularly the Florida Project (which would later become Walt Disney World). Kurt Russell was a child actor signed to Walt's studio at the time, so it's probable Walt was thinking of some future film that Russell would have been perfect for.
Benjamin Disraeli, when asked if he wished to receive the Queen at his deathbed — "No, it is better not. She will only ask me to take a message to Albert."
"Executioner, strike home!" - Earl of Essex.
"So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies." — The last sentences of the final blog post of popular movie critic Roger Ebert, before he died of cancer two days later. Ebert had lost his jaw to the cancer shortly before, rendering him unable to talk.
"It is beautiful over there..." — Thomas Edison, said as he looked toward an open window.
Albert Einstein's last words were in German, and the only witness didn't speak the language, thus losing his words to history. A recurring joke among scientists is whether those words were crucial to his great work, or a trivial remark. He was working on an essay when he died, so his last written words are a paragraph on the subject of Mutually Assured Destruction, ending in the inexplicable sentence fragment "Citater fra—".
"My God, what... what happened to me? ("Was ist eigentlich mit mir geschehen?") — Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary (aka Sisi). As the empress was walking down a pier to board a ship a man ran into her and knocked her down. Nobody saw the sharpened file he'd stabbed her in the chest with before he ran off, and nobody saw any blood because of the tight corset she was wearing. Consequently nobody realized she was hurt until she fainted shortly after boarding the ship. She promptly died from severe internal bleeding.
Elizabeth I of England is alleged to have said "All my possessions for one moment of time." Shortly thereafter, she lost her voice, though she continued to linger for some days, communicating by signs. (Accounts differ, though.)
"Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me." — Chris Farley. Said to a hooker Farley had brought to his hotel room. She left, and Farley promptly died of a drug overdose.
"Send him home, we won't be needing him." - The last recorded words of Frederik IX of Denmark as he was carried to a waiting ambulance after suffering a massive heart attack. It was aimed at a servant responsible for answering the phone and receiving messages for the King.
"Soon, Mother of mine. Mary, Mother of Grace, Mother of Kindness, protect me from the Enemy and take me in during my last hours... Jesus, Joseph and Mary... my... soul shall... expire with you...!" — Francesco Possenti aka Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Catholic Saint and visionary.
''Dear Mother of mine, I think I'll be meeting up with Jesus soon. Please tell Him to have mercy on my humble soul!" — Saint Gemma Carolina Galgani, Catholic saint and visionary. She was staring at a small statue of the Virgin Mary in her bedroom, and her last words were directed to it.
"Don't cry, Alfred! I need all my courage to die at twenty." was the last recorded words of the mathematician Évariste Galois to his little brother, after being shot in a stomach in a duel.
"AAAAAAH! Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!") — The pilot of Garuda Indonesia Flight 152, right before crashing into a forest in poor visibility.
King George V's doctor's diary revealed that he gave King George a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine, under the impression that this would give the King a more dignified death than letting him die slowly and painfully from lung disease. George V apparently didn't agree. His actual last words were "God damn you."
The "more dignified death" was reportedly one that would appear in the Times, which had a midnight deadline, unlike those lesser plebeian newspapers that went to bed at 2 or 3 AM. The doctor nearly buggered that up too — the clocks at Sandringham were normally set half an hour behind, so when they killed him at 11:20 Sandringham time it was 11:50 real time, or only ten minutes before the Times deadline. To his credit, George's successor Edward VIII was enraged when he found out what had happened and why, but he took his anger out on the clocks; the story was later used (without the explanation as to why he was running around furiously changing the clocks moments after his father's death) to show why he was a Bad King and not at all fit to reign. (He was a Bad King and not fit to reign, but that wasn't why. The fascist sympathies and selfishness, on the other hand...)
Acclaimed writer Roald Dahl, dying in hospital, said to his family, "You know, I'm not frightened. It's just that I will miss you all so much." He then appeared to fall unconscious, and it was decided to give him a lethal dose of morphine to ease his passing. But when the nurse injected him, he opened his eyes and muttered "Ow, fuck!" And those were his last words.
"The sadness will last forever." Vincent van Gogh, to his brother Theo, just before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
« J'en foutre, j'en foutre... » (Fr. — "Fuck it, fuck it") — Griboedov, Russian classic writer and diplomat, Ambassador to Iran, as his embassy was overrun by knife-wielding religious fanatics whom we today would probably classify as terrorists.
His last words are in French because that was the language spoken by the Russian nobility (the Russian language was considered too barbaric). It's also very bad (and nonsensical) French, unless he was saying Jean-foutres ! Jean-foutres ! (something like "Phonies ! Phonies !"), in which case it's just poor transcription.
"Straight up and aim well! You are only going to kill a man."(¡Póngase sereno, y apunte bien! ¡Va a matar a un hombre!) — Ernesto "Che" Guevara (may be apocryphal).
May instead have been — "I knew you were going to shoot me; I should never have been taken alive. Tell Fidel that this failure does not mean the end of the revolution, that it will triumph elsewhere. Tell Aleida to forget this, remarry and be happy, and keep the children studying. Ask the soldiers to aim well."
The movie Che: Guerrilla has him only say "shoot. Do it" to the soldier who entered his room.
"Glory hallelujah! Glory hallelujah! I am with the Lord." — Charles Guiteau, assassin of James Garfield. Keep in mind, though, that these were just the final two lines of an entire poem he had recited at the scaffold.
He'd asked for an orchestra to accompany the recitation, but they drew the line there. A hundred years later, Stephen Sondheim eventually obliged him by using some lines from the poem as lyrics in Assassins.
"Jag är så sömnig; och jag vill försöka vila mig litet grann. — I feel so sleepy; and I want to try to rest a bit." — Gustav III of Sweden. Understandable, since he'd just spent nearly two weeks dying of complications from a gunshot wound.
This is the popular version. The exact speech has been lost, but whatever he said so impressed the British officers who witnessed the execution that several of them wrote about how eloquent he was. Another possibility is that he was quoting Joseph Addison's Cato.
« Bien sûr, il me pardonnera; c'est son métier. » ("Of course He [God] will forgive me; that's His job.") — Heinrich Heine
"The others, they were the real bastards. You were the only legitimate one."- Henry II, first Plantagenet King of England, to his illegitimate son Geoffrey, the only one of his sons to be by his side as he died. This was because his legitimate sons were either fighting against him, or had already died in that cause.
"Maybe I’m dying." — Attributed to Jim Henson, as he finally agreed to go to the hospital after weeks of illness.
"The world is just a barrel-organ which the Lord God turns Himself / We all have to dance to the tune which is already on the drum." — SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.
'I've said all I've had to say.' — comedian Bill Hicks. He didn't die until 11 days later, but he voluntarily quit speaking after saying this.
Hildebrand/Pope Gregory VII — "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, and therefore I die in exile." (Dilexi justitiam et odivi iniquitatem: propterea morior in exilio — A parody of Psalm 44 (45), 7.)
Context: he was trying to escape the Allies, and was carrying false identity papers. When he was going through a procedure interrogation on a British camp he revealed his true identity. When he was about to be medically examined (as it was accustomed to do to POWs) he refused to open his mouth and chewed on a cyanide pill hidden on his teeth. His real last words were probably along the lines of "no".
"Ach, wie schießt ihr schlecht!" ("Oh, your aim is horrible!") — Andreas Hofer, Austrian freedom fighter in Tyrol against Napoleon's Bavarian puppet regime. To explain: it took two salvos of a firing squad and a shot to the head to kill him.
"Surprise me." - Bob Hope, when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried.
Sam Houston, leader of the Texas Revolution, first president of the Republic of Texas and deposed as governor during the state's secession carried his love for both his wife and his state to his deathbed. His last words are said to be "Texas! Texas! Margaret..."
Alternatively: "Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians."
After the doctor of the author/political activist Henrik Ibsen told Ibsen's wife, "He looks a bit better today" (he suffered from tuberculosis), Ibsen supposedly stood up in his bed and shouted "NO!" and then proceeded to die.
Another version is that he said, without opening his eyes, "Tvertimod" which means "To the contrary" and expired.
"Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks—" and then, "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." — Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. Jackson had been shot in the arm by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville. The arm had to be amputated. Jackson then caught pneumonia and died.
"Strike the tent." — Robert E. Lee, Jackson's old commander, dying of heart disease five years after the war.
« Je meurs : amenez-moi un cure-dent. » (" "I am dying. Please, bring me a toothpick.") — Alfred Jarry, an absurdist writer (who also lived absurdly).
While this seems suitably absurd, a doctor finally explained that the request was not strange considering Jarry died from drug-, alcohol-, and tuberculosis-induced dehydration; dehydration makes your gums itch.
Pope John Paul II's last words were in Polish — "Pozwólcie mi iść do domu Ojca. Let me go in to the house of the Father."
To this day, it is argued whether William Henry Johnson, stage name "Zip the What-Is-It", one of the most famous sideshow performers in history, was an actual microcephalic ("pinhead") or just a man with an odd-shaped head. One of the major weapons in the debate is his last words, as reported by his sister (who always claimed her brother was smarter than he let on): "We sure fooled them a long time, didn't we?"
"Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!" — Final radio transmission of volcanologist David A. Johnston, just before being killed by the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980.
"Yes, and I fear seriously." Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston at the Battle of Shiloh, after he nearly fainted in the saddle and an aide asked if he'd been wounded. Johnston was bleeding profusely from a bullet wound to the back of his knee that he was either ignoring or didn't notice.
"Even in Heaven, I shall work for my country. When the exclamation of Korean independence reaches the Heavens, I shall dance in delight, crying long live Korea." — An Jung-Geun, Korean independence activist (and a devout Catholic) who assassinated Hirobumi Ito, a Japanese politician who effectively annexed Korea. His wish came true 36 years later.
"Ich rufe den Allmächtigen an, er möge sich des deutschen Volkes erbarmen. Über zwei Millionen deutsche Soldaten sind vor mir für ihr Vaterland in den Tod gegangen. Ich folge meinen Söhnen nach. Alles für Deutschland!" ("I call upon the Almighty to have mercy on the German people. More than two million German soldiers went to their deaths for the fatherland before me. I now follow my sons. All for Germany!") — Wilhelm Keitel, German Feldmarschall during World War II, before being executed by hanging in Nuremberg prison.
Kennedy's driver said that the President cried out "My God, I'm hit!" after being shot through the neck. However, none of the other four people in the car recalled hearing this, and it would seem unlikely that Kennedy would have been able to say anything after a bullet ripped through his throat.
Arguably Finnish author Aleksis Kivi's last words were "Minä elän!" ("I live!")
"Now, excuse me, I have to go." - Satoshi Kon, in an blog post. The actual Japanese expression is something officer workers say when they leave. It's meant to be "Excuse me for leaving the office before you" and Satoshi meant it as "Excuse me for leaving this world before you".
"I will not ask for mercy nor would I have it on you!" Rade Končar, Yugoslav Communist leader and legendary World War II resistance fighter when asked whether he would ask for clemency.
"You'll hang me now, but I am not alone. There are two hundred million of us. You can't hang us all." Soviet partisan Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya who was hanged by German soldiers.
Pierre François Lacenaire, a poet and double murderer, executed in 1836. It was on a Monday morning and he commented: "This week begins very badly." (« Voilà une semaine qui commence mal. »)
« Je suis toute à vous. » ("I am all yours.") Adrienne de Lafayette to her husband, the Marquis de Lafayette. He had the words engraved on a miniature of her around the time of their marriage, and held it in his hand as he died.
"I am going to the inevitable." — Philip Larkin.
"Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." — Hugh Latimer being burned at the stake for being a Protestant.
St. Lawrence the Martyr — Traditionally broiled to death on a red-hot grid-iron. According to St. Ambrose, his last words were "Assum est — versa et manduca" (literally, "It's cooked — turn and eat," but more idiomatically, "Turn me over — I'm done on this side"). For this reason, St. Lawrence is the Patron Saint of chefs, roasters, and comedians.
Cracked translated his last words as "This side is done. Turn me over and have a bite." They then quipped that this was the first, and most accurate, use of the insult-comeback "Bite me!"
"I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for the Lord; If I had a thousand lives, all these I shall offer to Him." — From another Lawrence who was martyrized, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz (the first Filipino saint, tortured to death in Japan during the persecution of Japanese Christians)
"TONIGHT WE'LL DINE IN HELL!" — Well, apparently King Leonidas of Sparta did not literally say this, nor were they strictly speaking his absolutely last words, but he is reported in Plutarch's Ἀποθέγματα Λακονικά as having ordered his troops (at their last breakfast before the final battle) Τοῖς δὲ στρατιώταις παρήγγειλεν ἀριστοποιεῖσθαι ὡς ἐν Ἅιδου δειπνοποιησομένους, Tois de stratiôtais narêggeilen aristopoieisthai ôs en Haidou deipnopoiêsomenous) — "Eat heartily, for tonight we shall dine with Hades in the Underworld."
"I think I'm going to make it!" - Richard Loeb, half of the Leopold & Loeb duo of murderers, after being stabbed ninety times by another inmate.
Louis XIV — « Je m'en vais, mais l'État demeurera toujours. » ("I am going, but the State shall always remain.")
Somewhat earlier he had said to his attendants: « Pourquoi pleurez-vous ? Avez-vous imaginé que j'étais immortel ? » ("Why are you weeping? Did you imagine I was immortal?")
It's sometimes stated that he said "L'État, c'est moi" ("I am the State."), though there's no proof of this; however, he is believed to have likely said the similar "L'État, Versailles" (The State is Versailles), meaning that the Throne or the monarch is the state (reconciling his last words with the sentiment of "I am the State": when you remember also "The King is dead; Long live the King," (i.e. there's always a King) it means "I'm the state right now, and when I die the new King becomes the state."
"Remember me not as an Italian princess, but as an Italian sister." - Princess Mafalda of Savoy, daughter of King Vittorio Emmanuele III of Italy, who was held prisioner in the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald and died when it was bombed by the Allies.
"Chairman Mao! I love you! Your loyal student and comrade is coming to see you!" — The words that Mao's widow wrote on a sheet of paper before she hanged herself in 1991.
"Aidez-moi, ma chère amie!" ("Help me, my dear friend!") - Jean-Paul Marat
"I feel great." - Retired NBA legend "Pistol" Pete Maravich, seconds before his death at a pickup basketball game as a result of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
« Pardonnez-moi, monsieur; je ne l'ai point fait exprès. » "Forgive me, monsieur. I didn't do it on purpose..." — Queen Marie Antoinette of France, as an apology for having stepped on her executioner Samson's foot as she walked towards the guillotine.
"‘I die innocent of all the crimes laid to my charge; I Pardon those who have occasioned my death; and I pray to God that the blood you are going to shed may never be visited on France.’ ". Her husband Louis XVI's last words before being guillotined as well.
—¡Mexicanos! Muero por una causa justa, la de la independencia y libertad de México. ¡Ojalá que mi sangre ponga fin las desgracias de mi nueva patria! ¡Viva México!— ("Mexicans! I die for a noble cause, the independence and freedom of Mexico. I hope my blood puts an end to the disgrace of my new homeland. Long live Mexico!") — Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, before being shot by liberal troops.
"Die, my dear? Why, that's the last thing I'll do!" — Groucho Marx
Also Lord Palmerston's last words.
"Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough." — Karl Marx
"Daddy flight. Save your auxiliary fuel tanks". Fighter ace Thomas McGuire, 1945. He attempted to dogfight a Japanese Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa with P-38 Lightning. Dropping auxiliary fuel tanks is a standard procedure in such situation - and that particular Hayabusa was flown by Akira Sugimoto, a flight teacher with 3,000 hours on that type. Needless to say, that dogfight ended disastrously.
"We'll see each other in Valhalla!" - Luftwaffe ace pilot Heinrich Ehrler.
Context: Major Ehrler had been court-martialed and sentenced to death for failing to protect the battleship Tirpitz from British bombers, but due to his talent as a fighter ace the punishment had been switched to imprisonment and delayed. By April 4, 1945, he was psychologically broken and the war was lost. After shooting two B-24 Liberator bombers from his Me-262 jet fighter, he set the fighter on a collision course to the third bomber and radioed to his wingman: "Theo. Ich habe keine Munition mehr. Ich werde diesen da rammen. Auf Wiedersehen. Wir sehen uns in Walhalla!" - "Theo, I'm out of ammo. I'm going to ram this one. Goodbye. We'll see each other in Valhalla."
"When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais lying in my heart." — Mary I of England. Calais had fallen to the French during her reign after being an English possession for over 200 years.
"Then, it is time to die!": Simon de Montfort upon hearing his son died in battle. Simon then charged against Edward I's knights and was cut down.
Just before dying of a cocaine-induced heart attack, Keith Moon demanded his girlfriend make him steak for breakfast. His last words, when she refused, were "And if you don't like it, then fuck off!"
"Shoot straight, you bastards! Don't make a mess of it!" — Sergeant Harold "Breaker" Morant to his firing squad.
As St. Thomas More knelt to be beheaded for high treason, he moved his long beard aside, saying, "Pity that should be cut, that hath not committed treason."
Eric Morecambe said, "Thank God that's over," after coming off stage and before dying of a heart attack.
Hector Hugh Munro, AKA "Saki" — "Put that damned cigarette out!" Munro, who had left his writing career to become an officer in World War I, was shot shortly before the Armistice; a lit cigarette in a fox-hole allowed enemy snipers to draw a bead on the smoker. He was promptly killed by a German sniper who had overheard the remark.
As famously happened to Pitt the Younger, whose actual last words "I think I could eat one of Bellamy's veal pies" are a lot less pithy than his penultimate statement "Oh, my country! How I leave my country!" Unusually, his actual last words were at least as widely reported as the intended last words.
Nelson's last words on the other hand are often claimed to be one of "Thank God I have done my duty", "Kiss me, Hardy", and, yes, asking for a drink, for someone to massage his painful wound, and to be fanned ("drink, drink... rub, rub... fan, fan)".
A round of the trivia panel quiz show QI once dealt with last words — specifically, the last words of Admiral Horatio Nelson. The point was raised that most Real Life last words as recorded — particularly the exceptionally pithy ones — are, more than likely, merely some clever thing that the person dying happened to say at some point shortly before their death, and their real last words might well have been something utterly mundane, such as "Can I have a drink of water?" or some mumbled gibberish produced by a fatally compromised brain, which would have been quickly forgotten in favour of the final pearl of wisdom.
"Such a great artist is lost to the world!" (Qualis artifex pereo— more literally, "I die as such an artist.") (Emperor Nero, before his slave kills him per Nero's own orders)
When he was dying, a soldier arrived, and tried to save him (so he could be executed). He said "Too late! This is fidelity!" (Sero! Haec est fides!), apparently not understanding the situation.
Supposedly, when told by her assassins that she was being killed on her son's orders, Nero's Evil Matriarch mother Agrippina the Younger said, "Strike at my womb!" (Ventrem feri.)
"Comrades, fire at me and aim true. Frenchmen, I protest before God and the nation against the judgement which condemns me. I call to Man, to posterity, to God. Long live France! Soldiers, aim straight for the heart!" (« Camarades, tirez sur moi et visez juste ! Français, je proteste devant Dieu et la patrie contre le jugement qui me condamne. J'en appelle aux hommes, à la postérité, à Dieu. Vive la France ! Soldats, visez droit au cœur ! ») Napoleon's Marshal Michel Ney who had asked (and gained) the right to direct the execution squad himself.
"T-the saints! The saints!" — Venerable Galileo Nicolini, an Ill Boy studying to be a Passionist priest. He was staring at a painting of the Virgin Mary as he lay dying.
“I'm going outside and I might be some time.” — Captain Lawrence Oates, a Polar explorer who realized his severe frostbite was putting the whole team at risk. He stepped outside into the blizzard and his body was never found.
"Last entry. For God's sake look after our people." — Last (written) words of Robert Falcon Scott on the same expedition.
The Irish poet Angus O'Daly (17th c.) wrote stinging satires of Irish lords, with the intent of stirring up discord between them (perhaps at the behest of English authorities). He was about to commence another against O'Meagher, when one of O'Meagher's servants stabbed O'Daly. As he lay dying, he composed a poem to mark the occasion. It matched perfectly the ludicrously complex rules of Irish poetic meter. A translation: "All harsh judgements I e'er made / On Munster's nobles, I repay; / Grey Meagher's stark servant / has passed the like harsh judgment on me." Of course, given how unpopular the "Red Bard" was, he may have had the poem prepared and just slotted in the required name...
"Maak het kort." ("Make it short" where short can refer both to time (make it quick) or length (like one would say to a barber)). Said by the Dutch noble Johan van Oldebarneveld when he was about to be beheaded.
"I knew it. Born in a hotel room, and damn it, dying in a hotel room" (or some permutation thereof) — Author Eugene O'Neill
"Sergeant, the Spanish bullet isn't made that will kill me." — William Owen "Buckey" O'Neill
"Hurry up, you Hoosier bastard! I could kill ten men while you're fooling around!" Carl Panzram, Serial Killer, to his hangman.
Ivan Pavlov is said to have requested that any calls should be answered with «Академик Павлов занят. Он умирает.» (Akademik Pavlov zanyat. On umirayet) ("Professor Pavlov is busy. He is dying.")
"I am murdered." — About as unpithy and unquotable as one would expect from Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister unlucky enough to get assassinated. Perceval's assassin had no particular grievance with him and the Prime Minister wasn't really that unpopular. The killer had just been personally very badly affected by a ministerial decision and, in a somewhat deluded state, struck out at the most clear and straightforward manifestation of the government - the Prime Minister. Perceval was just astonishingly unlucky that he happened to be PM at the time.
"I can't hear very well. And there's a mist in front of my eyes. But it will go away, won't it? Don't forget to open the window tomorrow..." — Boris Pasternak, Russian poet and writer, better known for Westerners as the author of of Doctor Zhivago.
Peter the Great had decided that he'd decide whom to leave his position to immediately before he died, allowing him to make a well-informed decision. Naturally, his last words were "I leave everything to..."
William Pitt the Elder's last words are sometimes given as "If we must fall, then let us fall like men!" (while giving a speech in the House of Lords about the possibility of Great Britain being invaded by the French during the American Revolutionary War). However, though he collapsed immediately after this, he didn't actually die until some days later.
James K. Polk — "I love you, Sarah. For all eternity, I love you."
"Good-bye, boys; I die a true American." — William "Bill the Butcher" Poole, both the real life version of him and the fictionalized one from Gangs of New York.
"Vi faccio vedere come muore un Italiano!" ("I'll show you how an Italian dies!") — Fabrizio Quattrocchi on being executed by Iraqi terrorists.
As mentioned in Looking for Alaska, François Rabelais's last words were "I go to seek a Great Perhaps." Rabelais is said to have continued, "Let the curtain fall; the comedy has been played." (« Je m'en vais chercher un grand peut-être; tirez le rideau, la farce est jouée. »)
"Treason! Treason!" — King Richard III, as he laid about him with a sword during the Battle of Bosworth Field, a little before he was cut down by his massed enemies.
Madame Marie-Jeanne Roland — Just before she was guillotined, she remarked to the image of Liberty in the Place de la Révolution, "O Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!" (« O Liberté, que de crimes on commet en ton nom ! »)
"I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.
"Nein." ("No.") — Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, sentenced to death by hanging at Nuremberg, when he was asked if he had any last word to say.
Charlie Ross, press secretary to Harry Truman, sat at his desk to give a briefing to NBC News on Dec. 5, 1950. His assistant told him not to mumble. He said "You know I always speak very distinctly", then fell off his chair, dead of a heart attack.
"It's good." — Spoken by the 12-year-old Sadako Sasaki, a casualty of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima famous for folding 1,000 paper cranes, on tasting her last meal, tea on rice.
Patrick Sarsfield, Irish leader. After losing the Williamite war, he became one of many Irish mercenaries ("Wild Geese") and died at the 1693 Battle of Landen (part of the Nine Years' War). Supposedly, he cried out "Oh, that this were for Ireland!"
"Es lebe die freiheit!/Let freedom live." Last words of Hans Scholl, executed by guillotine for nonviolently protesting the Nazi regime in 1943.
American gangster Dutch Schultz lingered for 22 hours after being fatally shot in 1935; during much of that time he was delirious and hallucinating, but a police stenographer transcribed almost every word he said. The resulting document is too long is quote in this example (read it here), and is a fascinating stream-of-consciouness babble that later influenced and was used by numerous writers, including William S. Burroughs and Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
Leon Trotsky's last written paragraph found on his desk (he was working on a biography of Stalin) the day he was murdered was: "All traditional moral principles are getting worse, not just those emanating from Stalin. However, a historical explanation is not a justification. Nero was also a product of its time, but when he died, his statues were destroyed, and his name was removed from everywhere. The revenge of history is more terrible than the most powerful general secretary. I dare say that this is comforting". However, as he was being transported to the hospital he said "This time they've done it. I think Stalin has finally finished the job he has started". His last words before he went unconscious were "I am close to death from the blow a political assassin... struck me down in my room. I struggled with him... we... entered... talk about French statistics... he struck me... Please say to our friends... I am sure... of the victory... of the Fourth International... Onward".
"Roger, go at throttle up." - Space Shuttle Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, the last communication from the shuttle before its break up during launch. Spoken to confirm the move to full power.
"Uh oh." - Challenger's Pilot Michael J. Smith, the last statement captured by the crew cabin recorder.
Union Major General John Sedgwick at the battle of Spotsylvania Court House said to his troops, "I'm ashamed of you, dodging that way. They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." and then "All right, my man; go to your place." He was responding to a soldier saying he would rather duck from enemy fire then face it head on. His last words are frequently and famously misquoted to imply that he was shot in the middle of saying "distance".
Socrates, after he was admistered hemlock, remarked to his friend Crito, Ὦ Κρίτων τῷ Ἀσκληπιῷ ὀφείλομεν ἀλεκτρυόνα. ἀλλὰ ἀπόδοτε καὶ μὴ ἀμελήσητε, Ô Kritôn, tô Asklêpiô opheílomen alektryóna, alla apódote kai mê amelêsête. ("Oh, Crito, we owe a rooster to Asklepios — pay it to him, and don't forget about it!") Asklepios was the Greek god of medicine; it was customary for those who were healed to sacrifice a rooster to him.
Stage magician Chung Ling Soo (actually an American in yellowface) was famous for the trick where he would appear to stop a bullet with his teeth. In his last show, the act went wrong and a real bullet got fired into his chest, and he expired with the line: "Oh my God. Something's happened. Lower the curtain", the first and last time he spoke English on stage in his Chinese persona.
Claus von Stauffenberg: "Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland!" ("Long live our sacred Germany!") — or maybe "Es lebe das geheime Deutschland!" ("Long live the secret Germany!")
The case of Nazi journalist Julius Streicher is quite interesting. According to Kingsbury Smith, as he was being brought to the scaffold at Nuremberg, he exclaimed "Heil Hitler!" and then "Purim Fest 1946" (Purim was a Jewish festival commemorating the victory of Esther over Hamaan, a great persecutor of the Jews; incidentally, Hamaan was also hanged for his crimes). When actually asked if he had anything to say, he stated "The Bolsheviks shall hang you all one day". Then, before the fell to his death, he's reported to have said: "Adele, my dear wife...".
"I'm not afraid to die. I'm going home." - Patrick Swayze, according to his family.
The Texas Department of Justice has compiled a list of the final statements of criminals before execution. These are literally the final things those people said as they were being strapped to the lethal injection table — not really all that famous, but still making a morbidly fascinating reading of what people actually say while facing imminent doom.
"Please, let me keep working!" - Osamu Tezuka, to the nurse taking his sketchpad
—De acuerdo, entonces, lo diré: Dante me hace enfermar.— ("All right then, I'll say it: Dante makes me sick.") — Félix Arturo Lope de Vega y Carpio, Spanish poet and playwright
—¡No permitas que esto acabe así! ¡Cuéntales que he dicho algo!— ("Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something.") — Pancho Villa
"Meine Uhr!" ("My watch!") — Richard Wagner. He had had a heart attack note possibly brought on by a violent quarrel with his wife Cosima over a pretty young "Flower Maiden" in Parsifal, and was dying in his wife's arms when the watch fell from his pocket onto the floor.
"I am just going. Have me decently buried and do not let my body be into a vault in less than two days after I am dead. Do you understand me? 'Tis well. I die hard, but I am not afraid to go." — George Washington, first President of the United States (he had a fear of being buried alive)
Allegedly, Oscar Wilde's final recorded words came as he sat up in bed and stared at his hotel room surroundings. "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death: either it goes, or I do." To put this in context, Oscar Wilde died of cerebral meningitis which caused delusions. That and he may have just really hated the wallpaper.
"Seven lives for my country. Ten thousand years for His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor!" — Otoya Yamaguchi, assassin of politician Inejiro Asanuma. More exactly, he wrote them on the wall of his cell before hanging himself.
"The battle is at its height; do not announce my death..." (나의 죽음을 알리지 마라, Naui jugeumeul allijimara) — Admiral Yi Sun-Sin, Korea's greatest military hero, at the Battle of Noryang. His nephew Yi Wan, one of the two witnesses of his death, obeyed this last command and disguised himself in Sun-Sin's armor so that his men would not be demoralized.