Famous Last Words: Kings, Queens, Rulers & Royalty

A collection of memorable dying words spoken by famous crowned heads

Henry VIII
King Henry VIII, circa 1537, by Hans Holbein, the Younger. Photo: Public Domain

Whether realized at the time they are said or only in hindsight, nearly everyone will express a word, phrase or sentence that proves the last thing he or she ever says while alive. Sometimes profound, sometimes everyday, here you will find a select collection of the last words spoken by famous kings, queens, rulers and other crowned heads throughout history.

Note: The following quotations are organized alphabetically by the individual's first name.

Alexander III, King of Macedon
(356-323 B.C.)
Kratistos!

Latin for "mightiest, strongest, or best," this was Alexander the Great's deathbed response when asked whom he would name as his successor, i.e., "Whoever is the mightiest!"

Charlemagne, Emperor, Holy Roman Empire
(742-814)
Lord, into Thy Hands I commend my spirit.

Charles XII, King of Sweden
(1682-1718)
Do not be afraid.

Diana, Princess of Wales
(1961-1997)
Unknown

Despite numerous sources quoting the dying words of "the People's Princess" -- such as "My God, what happened?" or "Oh, My God, leave me alone" -- no reliable source exists concerning Princess Diana's final utterance before she lapsed into unconsciousness following a car crash in Paris, France, on August 31, 1997.

Edward VIII, King of the United Kingdom
(1894-1972)
Mama... Mama... Mama...

Serving as king of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for less than 12 months, King Edward VIII officially abdicated the royal throne on December 10, 1936, so he could marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. The couple stayed together until Edward's death in 1972.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England
(1533-1603)
All my possessions for a moment of time.

George III, King of Great Britain and Ireland
(1738-1820)
Do not wet my lips but when I open my mouth. I thank you... it does me good.

Despite the formal separation of the American colonies from Great Britain in 1776 and his country's later formal acknowledgement of the United States of America as an independent country six years later, this English monarch nevertheless ruled until his death, a reign of more than 59 years.

Henry V, King of England
(1387-1422)
Into Thy hands, O Lord.

Henry VIII, King of England
(1491-1547)
Monks, monks, monks!

Immortalized in numerous books and films, the oft-married Tudor king famous for severing all ties with the Roman Catholic Church so he could legitimately marry another woman was likely referring to the troubles he encountered after dissolving England's Catholic monasteries and convents in 1536.

John, King of England
(1167-1216)
To God and St. Wulfstan, I commend my body and soul.

Despite his fame in the Robin Hood legends as the evil prince who oppressed the English people while conspiring to steal the throne from his brother, King Richard I "The Lion Hearted," King John also signed Magna Carta in 1215, albeit reluctantly. This historic document guaranteed several basic rights for England's citizens and established the idea that everyone, even kings, are not above the law.

Marie Antoinette, Queen of France
(1755-1793)
Pardonnez-moi, Monsieur.

French for "Excuse/forgive me, Sir," the doomed queen apologized to her executioner after stepping on his foot on her way to the guillotine.

Napoleon Bonaparte
(1769-1821)
France... Army... head of the army... Josephine...

Nero, Emperor of Rome
(37-68)
Sero! Haec est fides!

Often depicted in film as playing a fiddle while Rome burned down around him, the tyrannical Nero actually committed suicide (although perhaps with the assistance of someone else). As he lay bleeding to death, Nero uttered the Latin for "Too Late! This is faith/fidelity!" -- probably in response to a soldier who tried to staunch the emperor's bleeding in order to keep him alive.

Peter I, Tsar of Russia
(1672-1725)
Anna.

Peter the Great called out his daughter's name before losing consciousness and eventually dying.

Richard I, King of England
(1157-1199)
Youth, I forgive thee. Loose his chains and give him 100 shillings.

Mortally wounded by an archer's arrow during battle, Richard the Lion Hearted nevertheless forgave the shooter and ordered his release before he died. Unfortunately, Richard's men failed to honor their fallen king's wish and executed the archer anyway after their sovereign's death.

Richard III, King of England
(1452-1485)
I will die king of England. I will not budge a foot. Treason! Treason!

These words feel somewhat less dramatic than Shakespeare later attributed to the king in his play The Tragedy of King Richard the Third.

Robert I, King of the Scots
(1274-1329)
Thanks be to God! For I shall now die in peace, since I know that the most valiant and accomplished knight of my kingdom will perform that for me which I am unable to do for myself.

The deed to with "The Bruce" referred while dying involved the removal of his heart so a knight could carry it to Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre, the burial site of Jesus according to religious belief.

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom
(1819-1901)
Bertie.

The long-reigning queen for whom an entire era is named, and who started the tradition of wearing black at funerals, called out to her eldest son by his nickname shortly before she died.

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