It is believed that people tend to become the most honest when they are about to die. Some have even said that of all the words a man utters in his entire lifetime, it is what he says on his death bed that makes the most sense. Here is a list of the 25 most famous last words ever uttered by some of the most celebrated heroes, celebrities and political leaders in the course of history, as well as relatively brief accounts of why they said those words.
Scottish novelist and dramatist Sir James Matthew Barrie, also known as J.M Barrie, uttered these words while he lay down on his deathbed situated on the top floor of the Adephi Terrace House in London, England. There, the renowned author of Peter Pan stayed and was nursed until he died of pneumonia on June 19, 1937. His remains were buried next to his parents and siblings in Kirriemiur Cemetery in Scotland.
John Adams, the first vice president of the United States, used to utter Thomas Jefferson still survives when he was still alive. When he died on July 4, 1826, he was quoted as having said Thomas Jefferson by those who witnessed the very moment he breathed his last breath. Some believed that it was Thomas Jefferson still survives that he intended to say, but Thomas Jefferson was the only phrase he managed to intelligibly pronounce as he passed away.
Right at the peak of the French Revolution, Queen Marie Antoinette was convicted of treason and was sentenced to die of guillotine with her husband, King Louis XVI of France. Riding a cart, she was taken through the streets of Paris and mocked until she and King Louis XVI were finally brought to the guillotine site. While she was already on the scaffold seconds before her death, she unintentionally stepped on the foot of her executioner and decorously uttered her words of pardon.
American novelist Louisa May Alcott had been suffering from an unknown illness when her condition turned shoddier soon after she visited her just as ailing father. On her deathbed, she uttered these words believing that it was meningitis she was ill with. But when she died, it was discovered that it was not meningitis that she died of, but mercury poisoning which she acquired when she was treated for typhoid fever years earlier.
The first woman to have ever been executed by the military tribunal of the federal government of the United States, Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt uttered these last words as she was being executed in public on July 7, 1865. A boarding house owner, she was sentenced to be hanged after being found guilty of treason. She was also involved in an apparent conspiracy to assassinate the late US president Abraham Lincoln.
These were the last words of James Donald French, a murderer who was convicted in the United States on August 10, 1966. He was the last criminal to have ever been executed under the death penalty law of Oklahoma. He was sentenced to be electrocuted after killing one of his cellmates in jail. At the top of his voice, he pronounced these words in front of the members of the press who were there to witness his execution.
John Quincy Adams, a former president of the United States, gleefully pronounced these words on his deathbed on February 21, 1848, seconds before his death. His death was triggered by a severe internal cerebral hemorrhage brought by a fall he had on the floor of the US Capitol Building while he was still serving as the representative of the District of Massachusetts. Days after the fall, he deliriously expressed his contentment over the life he had lived and peacefully left.
One of the greatest warriors of all time, Alexander the Great was asked a few minutes before his death who he thought was worthy enough to succeed him in taking commands in his empire. The generals of his dominion deemed it just right to ask, since Alexander the Great had no heir. With his barely audible voice, the great fighter answered “to the strongest,” referring to one of his generals, Krateros. Soon after responding to the question, Alexander died.
These were the last words of the late president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, in response to the statement of his dear friend seconds before his death. Before being assassinated, the wife of then Governor John Connelly, remarked “you certainly cannot say that the people of Dallas haven’t given you a nice welcome, Mr. President.” John F. Kennedy came back with his answer and then moments later the fatal shots were fired.
A great leader, Alexander II of Russia uttered these words after obtaining fatal wounds during an attempt on his life. When his guards found his mutilated body lying under the seat of his carriage following a bombing and assassination plotted against him by a group of anarchists, they heard him feebly utter “home to the palace to die,” to which they quickly responded by bringing him home. Alexander II of Russia died hours later.
An intrepid officer who fought during the First World War, Saki, aka Hector Hugh Munro, said these words to his co officer for fear that their opponents might locate them through the smoke emitted by the cigarette he was smoking. This shrewd remark is said to have paved the way for his death, as upon hearing the strident remark, the opponents were able to track them down in their hole. One of their opponents fired a German sniper and immediately killed the officer.
Celebrated military man Salvador Allende gave his last words in the presence of the military forces who broke into the La Moneda Palace on September 3, 1973 as an attempt to declare coup d’etat. Right after he delivered his legendary speech before his fellow military men, Allende took everyone by surprise when he got a gun out of his garb and shot himself in the head.
The death of Major John Andre was among the most significant moments of the American Revolution. He was sentenced to die of execution before the judicial court of America after he was proven guilty of being a British spy. In an account of the revolution written by James Thatcher, he recounted that the moment before he was hanged, Andre was given the chance to pronounce his last words before his fellowmen. As a response, he uttered “I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man” as he raised the white handkerchief tied around his head to cover his eyes.
These were the last five words uttered by James Brown, “The Godfather of the Soul,” shortly before he died of pneumonia resulting in congestive heart failure on the morning of Christmas 2006. He first became ill when he visited Atlanta for an appointment with his dentist. On his deathbed, his family witnessed how the 73-year old James Brown uttered his last words, took a couple of long breaths, then died.
While on the brink of death, the wife of renowned chemical scientist Michael Faraday asked him if he had ever pondered what his occupation would probably be in the next life. Before he fell totally unconscious to the world, Faraday calmly uttered his last words in response to the question of his wife. The chemical scientist said these words on his deathbed in Surrey on August 25, 1867, shortly before he died at age 75.