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13 of the most famous last words in history

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AP_6801010858“The quiet Beatle” George Harrison passed on one last message of love in his final breaths.

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  • There’s something comforting about poetic, funny, or interesting last words.
  • These quotations give us hope about facing death with dignity or even humor.
  • From an early American patriot to a famous rock star, these individuals all died after uttering some particularly memorable last words.

We love famous last words.

There’s a reason there are so many books listing memorable deathbed sayings throughout history out there. Perhaps we’d just rather believe well-known figures tend to die saying something clever and profound. It makes death itself a little less scary.

But, for that reason, final words can be quite tricky. As with any quotes on the internet — and historical quotes, in general — it’s hard to sort out what’s true and what’s phony or exaggerated.

Here are several poignant, strange, or otherwise memorable last words from throughout history:

Anaele Pelisson contributed to a previous version of this article.

Jane Austenbi_graphics_quote5

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At the age of 41, the celebrated novelist suffered a painful death in 1817 from an unidentified disease — although Addison’s or Hodgkin’s lymphoma are potential culprits, according to the blog Science-Based Writing. Her final words were recorded by her brother Henry, according to “The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes.”

Winston Churchillbi_graphics_quote9

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In 1965, the British Prime Minister fell into a coma and died in his London home at the age of 90, according to the Phrase Finder. According to “The Private Lives of Winston Churchill,” he was speaking to his son-in-law Christopher Soames, who had offered him some champagne.

Nathan Halebi_graphics_quote1

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Historians believe the 21-year-old school teacher-turned-spy was paraphrasing a line from the popular 18th century play “Cato” as he stood on the scaffold, according to the book “Cato’s Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion.” The British hanged Hale after he was captured during a failed 1776 espionage mission in Long Island.


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The Roman statesman met his fate in 43 BCE, after Mark Anthony put a hit out on him during the power struggle following Julius Caesar’s death.

Cicero attempted to flee, but accepted his death when confronted by his assassins. He even stuck his head out of his litter in order to make it easier for the killers to strike, according to “Forgotten Justice.”

Marie Antoinettebi_graphics_quote3

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According to the 2016 biography “Marie-Antoinette,” the deposed French queen apologized to her executioner on the scaffold in 1793. She had accidentally stepped on his foot on her way to the guillotine.

Joe DiMaggiobi_graphics_quote12

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According to the book “Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love,” the famous baseball player expressed his desire to reunite in the afterlife his late ex-wife Marilyn Monroe just before dying in 1999.

George Jacques Dantonbi_graphics_quote4

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The French politician and revolutionary was ultimately devoured by the bloody regime he had helped to establish.

According to “Famous Social Reformers & Revolutionaries,” he was guillotined in 1794 after making a defiant and snarky remark to the executioner.

Napoléon Bonapartebi_graphics_quote6

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Napoleon reflected on both his career and stormy personal life before dying in exile in 1821, according to the Guardian. His final words were a list — ending with the name of his former wife and lover Josephine.

George Harrisonbi_graphics_quote13

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According to his wife and son, the ex-Beatle succumbed to lung cancer in 2001 after passing on one final message of love, the Guardian reported.

Thomas Carlylebi_graphics_quote7

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The Scottish philosopher — who also was the first to label economics a “dismal science” — also worked as a essayist, historian, and mathematician. He died in bed at the age of 85 in 1881, according to his biographer Fred Kaplan.

George Pattonbi_graphics_quote8

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After helping to lead the fight to defeat the Nazis in Europe, the American general was paralyzed in a car crash in December 1945. He succumbed to his injuries on December 20, 1945, according to “Patton and His Third Army.”

James Frenchbi_graphics_quote10

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After brutally slaying a West Virginia motorist who gave him a ride, the convicted murderer strangled his cell mate at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. He was sentenced to the electric chair on August 10, 1966, according to News OK.

Before he was executed, he yelled a famously morbid suggestion for a headline to gathered reporters, according to the Mirror.

Noel Cowardbi_graphics_quote11

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After bidding his longtime partner and friends a good evening on the night of March 22, 1973, the playwright died of heart failure in his Jamaican Firefly Estate, according to Philip Hoare’s biography of Coward.

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