December 17, 2023 | Jennifer Crump

Facts About Famous Last Words


“This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go.” 
― Oscar Wilde

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” 
― François Rabelais

As those two quotes demonstrate, last words come in all types. Some people put a lot of thought into the last bit of wisdom they leave behind. Others? Less thought. We’ve gathered some of the most memorable final bon mots from the world’s most famous and infamous people. Take a look.


1. Leave it Better than You Found it

Augustus, the first Roman emperor, summed up his accomplishments with his last words to the people of Rome: “I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble.”

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2. Let Them Eat Cake, Please

While walking to the guillotine, Marie Antoinette, the hapless last Queen of France, stepped on her executioner’s foot. Her last words spoken to any one person were apparently “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur.”

The Most Hated Rulers In World History FactsWikimedia Commons

3. The Anti-Last Words

Karl Marx doesn't think much of this list. His final utterance? “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

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4. Get it? 

Able to find humor even in passing, comedian Groucho Marx’ last words were, “Perish, my dear? Why that is the last thing I’ll do!”

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5. The Important Things

Bob Marley stayed true to his philosophical nature on his deathbed. His final words were “On your way up, take me up. On your way down, don’t let me down.”

Musicians Who Died Too Young FactsGetty Images

6. Regrets? I've Had a Few

Casablanca star Humphrey Bogart was a heavy smoker all his life, and passed from esophageal cancer. His final regret, however, had nothing to do with the lighting up that eventually ended him. “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis,” he lamented.

Famous Last Words FactsGetty Images

7. Not Religious, Then

When Joan Crawford suffered a heart attack, her housekeeper sank to her knees and started praying. The outraged actress scolded her, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

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8. The Great Unknown

Asked by his wife where he wanted to be buried, beloved American entertainer Bob Hope responded, “Surprise me.”

Famous Last Words FactsGetty Images

9. Reunited 

Actor Jimmy Stewart was married to his wife Gloria for 44 years before she passed in 1994. Stewart never got over her passing. As he himself lay dying three years later, he turned to his family and said, “I am going to be with Gloria now.”

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10. It’s Happening

Before he passed on Christmas morning 2006, singer James Brown prophetically whispered to his manager Charles Bobbit, “I’m going away tonight.”

Famous Last Words FactsGetty Images

11. Ennui

“Oh, I am so bored with it all,” declared British politician Winston Churchill shortly before slipping into a coma and dying at the age of 90.

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12. Good Times

Australian-born actor Errol Flynn didn’t live long enough to get bored, dying of a massive heart attack at the age of 50. Buried with six bottles of booze, Flynn’s final words summed up his life: “I’ve had an inferno of a lot of fun,” he declared, “and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Errol Flynn FactsGetty Images

13. Beat That!

Booze was also a major concern for Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Just before he passed pneumonia at the age of 39, he announced, “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies…I think that’s the record.”

Real GhostsFlickr

14. Come and Get It

Charlie Chaplin saw the irony of the words of his priest who told him on his deathbed, “May the Lord have mercy on your soul.” “Why not?” Chaplin responded, “After all, it belongs to him.”

X-Files FactsShutterstock

15.  No-Nonsense

When her nurse announced that the former First Lady would perish when she had accomplished what God had wanted her to do, Eleanor Roosevelt responded, “Utter nonsense.”

Nicole Kidman factsGetty Images

16. Bathroom Reading

“I’m going to the bathroom to read,” were the last innocuous words said by singer Elvis Presley to his fiancée before she found him gone on the floor of the bathroom a few hours later.

Musicians Who Died Too Young FactsFlickr

17. Hesitation

As his executioner hesitated with the ax poised above his neck, Sir Walter Raleigh urged the man on. “Strike, man, strike!” he called out.

Famous Last Words FactsGetty Images

Actor Lewis Waller as Sir Walter Raleigh

18. Next Level

When a priest visited playwright Wilson Mizner on his deathbed and announced, “I’m sure you’ll want to talk to me,” Mizner deadpanned, “Why should I talk to you? I’ve just been talking to your boss.”

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19. Plot Twist

Producer and director Alfred Hitchcock was well known for his masterful twist endings. As he was he dying, he announced, “One never knows the ending. One has to go to know exactly what happens after passing, although Catholics have their hopes.”

Movie Industry factsGetty Images

20. For Witchcraft and Treason...

When Anne Boleyn was brought to the scaffold to pass, she begged leave to address the crown, and was granted the right to do so. Despite the limited evidence against her, she said, "Good Christian people, I am come hither to pass, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to perish, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to go, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul."

As she awaited the executioner's blade, kneeling on the block, she repeated the phrase, "To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul."

Mary Boleyn FactsWikimedia Commons

21. Agree to Disagree

Leonardo Da Vinci’s last words were, "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."

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22. Writer's Block

Playwright George Bernard Shaw understood the difficulty of his craft when he announced on his deathbed, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

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23. Low on Bubbly

On his deathbed, author and prominent economist (you may have heard of Keynesian economics) John Maynard Keynes expressed a final regret, “I should have had more champagne.”

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24. Hard Times

As his daughter suggested he roll over to breathe a little easier, Benjamin Franklin muttered “A dying man can do nothing easily.”

Scandalous Historical FactsWikipedia

25. Fine, How About You?

More worried about the fate of his companions than about his own fatal injuries after he was shot at The Ambassador Hotel, presidential candidate Robert Kennedy's last words were, “Is everybody all right?”

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26. Like Really, Wow!

Apple CEO Steve Jobs left this life with these enigmatic words: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”

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27. The Ultimate Science Experiment

Charles Darwin announced on his deathbed, “I am not the least afraid to go.”

Selection_001-1.pngWikimedia Commons, John Collier

28. The Ultimate Prediction

“You will not find me alive at sunrise,” said Nostradamus; his last words proved also to be his last prediction.

 

Famous Last Words FactsShutterstock

29. Poor Nelly

As he lay dying, King Charles II’s last words were for the mistress he was leaving behind. “Let not poor Nelly starve,” he begged his family.

King_Charles_II_by_John_Michael_Wright_or_studio.jpgWikipedia

30. Over It

After deposing a King, Englishman Oliver Cromwell was finally done with it all. Offered a drink on his deathbed, he responded, “It is not my design to drink or to sleep. My design is to make what haste I can to be gone.”

Bedlam FactsGetty Images

31. But I Appreciate Your Optimism

After nurse told a visitor he seemed to be feeling a little better, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen turned to them both and muttered, “On the contrary!” before dying.

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32. Say That Again

A general in the Union Army during the American Civil conflict , John Sedgwick scoffed at the skill of the Confederate shooter firing at him. “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance,” he declared just before the shooter fatally wounded him.

Famous Last Words FactsGetty Images

33. Win Some, Lose Some

Apparently, life is a competition for some. “I’m losing,” Frank Sinatra said to his wife just before he passed.

Seinfeld FactsGetty Images

34. This Is the End

Hari’s execution took place on the on the 15th of October 1917 (just two days away from being another important 13th day!). According to the testimony of journalist Henry Wales, Hari refused to be blindfolded as she faced the firing squad who were about to take her life. She did not flinch as the army men opened fire, and even after she’d been struck, her face did not change expression. 

Unfortunately, for those who want a juicier story, Wales doesn’t mention anything about her supposedly stripping down to her birthday suit to persuade the army men not to shoot her (as some sources have stated she did). She did, however, send a kiss to her executioners in her final moments. 

Mata Hari factsEl Demócrata

35. Endless Love

Joe DiMaggio left flowers at his ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe's grave every single week for twenty years after she overdosed on barbiturates.  Still deeply in love with her, when he lay on his own deathbed his final words were “I finally get to see Marilyn."

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36. What? 

Walt Disney's last words, written on a piece of paper, were "Kurt Russell." Russell was a child star working for Disney at the time but no one has been able to figure out the significance of the missive.

Quiz: Famous Last WordsFlickr

37. The Consummate Poet

Poet Emily Dickinson made her life's work playing with words. She didn't abandon her poetic outlook, even at the very end.

Her attitude shines through her final words: “I must go in, for the fog is rising.”

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38. Hedging His Bets

The iconic French writer, philosopher, and all-around wit, Voltaire, was known for his defiant attitude. Perhaps nothing shows how committed he was to free thought than his final interaction.

As Voltaire lay dying, the priest attending to him asked that he renounce Satan before moving on. In response, Voltaire allegedly announced, “Now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”

Catherine The Great factsWikimedia Commons

39. Double Jeopardy

Dying a long, painful demise from tuberculosis, author Franz Kafka’s final words were a condemnation of the doctor who refused to give him a fatal dose of morphine. “End me! Or you are a murderer?”

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40. Life's Not Fair

Married only shortly before she passed, author Charlotte Bronte was not ready to go. “He will not separate us. We have been so happy,” she shouted, expressing the tragedy of her star-crossed love.

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41. Dying in Style

Remaining an icon of the good life right until the end, fashion designer Coco Chanel passed in her opulent bed in the Hotel Ritz. Her last words to her maid Celine were, “You see, this is how you pass.”

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42. Tag! You’re It!

Have you ever been stuck as “it” in a game of tag for a really long time? Industrialist and multimillionaire Richard B. Mellon had a 70-year game of tag going with his little brother Andrew. On his deathbed, he called his brother to him and whispered, “last tag.” Andrew remained “it” until he passed four years later.

Richard_B.jpgWikimedia CommonsSources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


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