From the strange to the serene, here are some last words by kings, queens, saints, warriors and other people from the Middle Ages.
“Shoot, you devil! Shoot, in the devil’s name! Shoot, or it will be worse for you!” ~ William II, King of England (d.1100) had gone hunting with Walter Tirel and was shouting at him to shoot at a deer. The arrow missed, then ricocheted and hit the king in the heart.
“One of the miseries of princes is to have flatterers even around their deathbed.” ~ Pope Pius II (d.1464)
“Let it alone, for it is the devil!”…”I am coming. I am coming. It is just. But wait a little.” ~ Pope Alexander VI (d.1503): The infamous Pontiff also known as Rodrigo Borgia was on his deathbed when he saw an ape running around his room. A Cardinal offered to catch the imaginary beast, but the Pope declined, saying it was the Devil. He then turned to the hallucination and uttered his final words.
“Today, on the day of His Epiphany, my Lord Jesus Christ will appear to me, either for glory, as I in my repentance, should like, and as I hope, or for condemnation, as others would like, and as I fear.” ~ Berengar of Tours, theologian (d.1088). Some of his writings had been condemned by the Pope as being heretical.
“So there is no Christian who wishes to free me from this life?” ~ Constantine XI Palaeologus (d.1453): The last Byzantine emperor crying out while the Ottoman Turks storm into Constantinople.
“Remember that your business is only with those who carry arms. The churchmen, the poor, the women and children are not your enemies…I commend to the king my wife…my brother…Farewell, I am at an end.” ~ Bertrand du Guesclin (d.1380) – The French military leader to his comrades.
“Wrap my bones in a hammock and have them carried before the army, so that I may still lead way to victory.” ~ Edward I, King of England (d.1307). He dies just before his army is about to invade Scotland.
“Draw up a chair for the radiant lady in white who is coming! … O Mary, Mother of Grace!” ~ Elizabeth of Aragon, Queen of Portugal (d.1336). The pious queen talking with her attendants.
“When you see that I am brought to my last moments, place me naked on the ground, just as you saw me the day before yesterday, and let me lie there, after I am dead, for the length of time it takes to walk one mile unhurriedly.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi (d.1226): After he said this to his fellow friars, they laid him on the ground and he spent his last few moments in contemplation.
“I have loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile.” ~ Pope Gregory VII (d.1085). The pontiff, often at war with the Holy Roman Empire, had been exiled from Rome and was living in Salerno.
“Let the rest go as it will. Now I care not what becomes of me. Shame, shame on a conquered king!” ~ Henry II, King of England (d.1189). While his son were in rebellion against him, Henry learns that John, his favourite son, had joined the revolt.
“I always wanted to possess, at death, nothing but a bedsheet. And now this sheet can be given to the poor!” ~ John the Almsgiver (d.619). The patriarch of Alexandria, known for his charity.
“I have offended God and mankind in not having labored at my art as I ought to have done.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci (d.1519). Speaking to King Francis I during his final illness, the Renaissance artist clearly did not hold himself in high esteem.
“Remember, my son, that kingship is a public charge, for which you will have to render a strict account in another world.” ~ Louis VI, King of France (d.1137). Speaking to his son.
“Fie on the life of this world! Do not speak to me more about it.” ~ Margaret of Scotland (d.1445). She was 20 when she died, after being rejected by her husband, Louis XI of France, for failing to produce children.
“I am dying. I commend you to God. I can no longer be with you. I cannot defend myself against death.” ~ William Marshal (d.1219). The famous English knight speaking to his family and supporters.
“If it is God’s will, nothing can be more pleasant to me than death.” ~ Lorenzo de Medici (d.1492): The Florentine ruler’s response when his sister tells him how serious his illness is.
“I am curious to see what happens in the next world to one who dies unshriven.” ~ Perugino (d.1523): The Italian Renaissance painter on refusing to see a priest and making a final confession.
“Leave the doors open, so that everyone may enter and see how a pope dies.” ~ Pope Urban V (d.1370). To his aides in the Papal palace.
“Make my skin into drum-heads for the Bohemian cause.” ~ Jan Zizka (d.1424). The Czech military leader to his troops.
“Well, is Gunnar at home?” “Find that out for yourselves, but I’ve found out one thing – that his halberd’s at home.” ~ Thorgrim the Easterling: In Njal’s Saga, Thorgrim and others go to attack Gunnar Hámundarson. Thorgrim goes up on the roof, but Gunnar stabs him with his weapon and he comes down. Gizur asks “Well, is Gunnar at home?” Thorgrim answered, “Find that out for yourselves, but I’ve found out one thing – that his halberd’s at home.” Then he fell down dead.
“Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” ~ Bridget of Sweden (d.1373)
From the book Last Words: A Dictionary of Deathbed Quotations, by C. Bernard Ruffin (1995). Keep in mind that in many cases we have multiple accounts of how a person died, so that you mind find other versions of these last words.
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Top Image: Death of King William II in a 19th century depiction