Famous Last Words
"Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose."
Queen Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) uttered this polite apology after she stepped on the foot of Sanson, her executioner, as she made her way to the guillotine. She was executed on October 16, 1793. Earlier that day her hair was shorn of and she was driven through Paris in an open cart while wearing a simple white dress. At 12:15, she was executed and her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine Cemetery, rue d'Anjou. Her body, along with that of Louis XVI, were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration. A Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on January 21, in the necropolis of French Kings at the Basilica of St Denis.
"I am about to — or I am going to — die: either expression is correct."
These words by Dominique Bouhours (1628 – 1702) might not seem significant until one understands that he was a famous French grammarian. It is nice to see someone who is true to his profession to the very end. Bouhours is also known for being a Jesuit priest, essayist and neo-classical critic.
"Now why did I do that?"
Sir William Erskine (1770 – 1813) said these words after he jumped from a window in Lisbon, Portugal. Erskine was an officer in the British Army, served as a member of Parliament, and achieved important commands in the Napoleonic Wars under the Duke of Wellington. He was declared insane in 1813, shortly after resigning his last post. His death is listed as a suicide.
"Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow's paper? 'French Fries!'"
James French (1936 – 1966) shouted these words to members of the press who were about to witness his execution. French was the last person executed under Oklahoma's death penalty and the only person executed in the United States that year. According to some, French murdered his cellmate in order to compel the state to execute him. He was already in prison for life but too much of a coward to commit suicide.
"Put out the bloody cigarette!"
Hector Hugh Munro (1870 – 1916), better known by the pen name Saki, was a British writer, whose witty and sometimes macabre stories satirised Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story. Saki said these last words to a fellow officer while in the trenches during World War I. He was afraid that the smoke would give away their positions. Ironically, a German sniper heard the remark and shot and killed Saki a moment later.
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