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The Medieval Deathbed: Famous Last Words


Quotes from the medieval period, including the last words of individuals, provide us with glimpses into the thoughts, beliefs, and experiences of people from that period.

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These quotes, although brief, can reveal their fears, hopes, religious convictions, and even their sense of humour.

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While some may seem strange or cryptic to us today, they held profound meaning for the individuals who uttered them.

“Shoot, you devil! Shoot, in the devil’s name! Shoot, or it will be worse for you!”

William
William II of England. He was killed whilst hunting.

The last words of William II, King of England, illustrate the unpredictability of life and the suddenness of death aged 43. He was reportedly shot by an arrow by one of his own men. His exclamation while hunting reflects his urgency and desire for action, not knowing that the arrow would ultimately prove fatal.

“Fie on the life of this world! Do not speak to me more about it.”

Similarly, Margaret of Scotland’s final words express her resignation and disappointment in her failed marriage, highlighting the personal struggles and desires of medieval royalty. She was only 20 when she died.

“I am dying. I commend you to God. I can no longer be with you. I cannot defend myself against death.”

William
Sir William Marshal was a great and fearless knight. Though he couldn’t fight death. (Photo Rosemary Watson)

In the case of William Marshal, a renowned English knight, his dying words convey a sense of vulnerability and acceptance of mortality. Despite his fame and prowess on the battlefield, he acknowledges that he cannot defend himself against death, emphasising the universal human experience of facing our own mortality.

“If it is God’s will, nothing can be more pleasant to me than death.”

The quote attributed to Lorenzo de Medici shows his attitude towards death. It would seem Lorenzo finds solace in the idea that death is in God’s hands and can be a pleasant experience if it is God’s will.

“One of the miseries of princes is to have flatterers even around their deathbed.”

Pope
Pope Pius II muttered his last words in 1464.

Pope Pius II reflected on the challenges faced by rulers, even in their final moments, as they are surrounded by flatterers and sycophants. He died of fever aged 58.

“So there is no Christian who wishes to free me from this life?”

The poignant last words of Constantine XI Palaeologus, the last Byzantine emperor, echo the desperation and sorrow of a leader witnessing the fall of his empire. It reflects the tragic events surrounding the Ottoman Turks’ conquest of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire.

And I Quote

These quotes from the medieval period endure as testament to the human experiences and emotions that transcend time.

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While they may seem distant and unfamiliar to us, they offer valuable glimpses into the thoughts and perspectives of individuals who lived in a vastly different era.

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They remind us that the hopes, fears, and dreams of our predecessors were not so different from our own, bridging the gap between the medieval world and our modern understanding of the human condition.

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