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:
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 hung Hale after he was captured during a failed 1776 espionage mission in Long Island.
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.'
According to the 2016 biography 'Marie-Antoinette,' the deposed French queen apologised to her executioner on the scaffold in 1793. She had accidentally stepped on his foot on her way to the guillotine.
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.
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 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.'
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.
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.
After helping to lead the fight to defeat the Nazis in Europe, the American general was paralysed in a car crash in December 1945. He succumbed to his injuries on December 20, 1945, according to 'Patton and His Third Army.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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