Sansom Mantle, This year, I read all C. Sansom's series of books in the Shardlake series; this one in particular was riveting. How does he do it? This is the fifth in a dynamic series, and the pace and plots never flag. More please! My children might laugh at the notion of my spending the Sixties in libraries, but I was on an exciting journey of my own, devouring excellent, comprehensive studies like this one. Lofts deserves to be accounted one of the great writers of the 20th century. She creates a world in which her characters wrestle with fortune or commit dark deeds, and tragedy leaves its imprint.
Green Darkness by Anya Seton, I love all Anya Seton's novels, but this one is particularly haunting. The story focuses on two mysterious houses, Cowdray Park, Sussex, now a ruin, and Ightham Mote, Kent, and the tale of a walled-up skeleton in the hall. Wife to the Bastard by Hilda Lewis, Lewis was one of the greatest historical novelists of the last century, and it is hard to choose just one of her books, but this is the novel that drew me to her work, and in weaving a rich tapestry of the life of Matilda of Flanders, queen of William the Conqueror, it sets a benchmark for the genre, combing dramatic storytelling and credible characterisations.
I Am England by Patricia Wright, This book won the Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize, and deservedly so, because it is effectively the story of England's past up till Tudor times. Both are brilliantly done. I first read this when I was twenty, and was entranced by it. It portrays Richard III from the viewpoints of several people who knew him, and does it beautifully. Today I would take issue on its sympathetic revisionist angle, but that should not detract from a mesmerising work of fiction.
In , she crossed over into fiction exploring the life of Lady Jane Grey and most recently Elizabeth I. You've written a lot on the Tudor period - why the fascination? AW: It's such a colourful period and hugely dramatic - you just couldn't make it up! This period is dynamic and exciting, but more significantly for a historian, there are plenty of facts available. The Tudors lived when the private lives of monarchs were becoming public knowledge, and with both the growth of diplomacy and literacy came some fantastic records, not just written but also visual, for example Holbein's paintings.
For almost the first time, we can visualise these characters we have heard so much about. The wealth of documentation is a historian's dream. How do you set about blending the storytelling elements of biography with the drier facts of history-writing? AW: Essentially every story hangs on facts; sometimes you can have a huge amount of information, other times, much less. It's very important to get the right balance between fact and fiction, and of course, the beauty of writing fiction is the freedom to weave a story between the gaps. Can you provide a brief insight into what makes Anne Boleyn such an interesting figure?
AW: Everything that happened to her, quite simply. What a career that woman had and what a cataclysmic fall: love affairs, sex scandals, high politics. I find Elizabeth I a fascinating character as well, as I really think she struggled with being overshadowed by her mother, Anne.
Is there anything more to say on the Tudors, or are you looking to diversify into other areas? AW: I'll always love the Tudor period and certainly feel there is more to write on it; I'm planning a sequel to my novel The Lady Elizabeth , and I want to explore Katherine Howard's story more. Do you think the distinction between popular and serious biography has hecome blurred? AW: As a non-fiction author, I write 'popular' history: a term which has sometimes been used in a derogatory sense, but history is not the sole preserve of academics.
History belongs to us all, and it can be accessed by us all. And if writing it in a way that is accessible and entertaining, as well as conscientiously researched, can be described as popular, then, yes, I am a popular historian, and am happy to be one. However, I feel that an author has a responsibility to be as true to the facts as is possible.
In The Lady Elizabeth , I introduced a controversial plot in which the young Elizabeth struggles with an illicit and highly treasonous pregnancy; however, I didn't just make this up for a juicy story: there is documented evidence of a midwife coming forward. When historical novelists simply fabricate facts, they distort history and lose all integrity. We can all learn from a study of the past. We can discover more about ourselves and our own civilisation.
But all is frequently not as it appears. Informed viewers of last year's Elizabeth: The Golden Age , starring Cate Blanchett, would have been taken aback at the sight of Mary, Queen of Scots playing with her West Highland White terrier - years before the breed existed. And then there was the Sheriff of Nottingham, in the aforementioned Robin Hood , counting down "tick-tock" to peasants who would never have heard a clock.
And they ignored everything. You have to allow for dramatic licence, but the designers had all the right books and could have made it authentic. But they didn't. They had the right costumes though - to within 60 years of the period! More recently, she has also begun writing historical fiction - the genre that first sparked her interest in the past. It was a bit fanciful, but it seemed sexy at the time! I felt that it was human beings who made history. Sadly the history teachers wouldn't let me do A-level.
I turned up with a book I'd written myself, about Anne Boleyn, and the teacher's jaw dropped, but it was too late for me to get on the course! Not only did she pass her A-level "under my own steam", but she was soon researching and writing historical biographies. Again, it was a teenage discovery that sparked Alison's interest in this character. The heroine demonstrates the values of the s. She wants to marry for love, which in her own time was quite unknown.
You sometimes have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. But some readers never make the leap from pure fiction to truth. Elizabeth: The Golden Age was a travesty. The locations were years out of date. Walter Raleigh would never have got into the Queen's presence wearing an open-necked shirt. And Mary, Queen of Scots wouldn't have spoken with a Scottish accent - she grew up in France, and French was her native tongue. For the first time in history we have good portraits of people, so the faces become real. We have letters to give insights into the private lives of kings and queens, which we didn't in medieval times.
But with historical fiction, twenty editors will have twenty different ideas! When I started writing fiction, I'd published over ten non-fiction hooks and thought I knew my stuff. But I learned so much from the editing process. I had to show, rather than tell; move the narrative from action to conversation. Original sources are the best. More so, it would seem, than some of her associates. In I sent a manuscript to a literary agency, suggesting a book on Diana, who had just become engaged to Prince Charles.
The agent said that people would soon lose interest in her! I wrote badk, saying it was best to remain objective about these things. The writer replied and apologised! Yet even she can fall prey to the kind of errors that so niggle her in others. Fortunately, her editor spotted the Freudian slip.
But after enormous deliberation, I have come up with the following list although the numbering is purely arbitrary, as it was a very close-run thing! I had to place this first since it set a new standard in historical biography, and because it was the one book that really inspired me to write about the lives of kings and queens. A wonderful, balanced academic study, packed with fascinating detail, that brings to life this most controversial of medieval figures.
This book encapsulates what historical biography should be, and is so elegantly written. Sarah Gristwood is one of the best historians writing today. Masterful and compelling. Another riveting example of quality historical biography, a lively and vivid evocation of a character and a period. Douglas: William the Conqueror Another early inspiration; this is academic - and highly accessible - historical biography at its very best.
A gripping, mesmerising example of historical investigation that reads like a thriller. A dazzling and triumphant biography that breaks new ground in the genre. Anything by David Loades! He's one of the best Tudor historians writing today. Just over a decade ago, I lived in a three-storey house in Surrey with my bookshelves on the two lower floors and my desk on the top floor - you can imagine how often I had to run up and down the stairs whenever I needed to look up something.
For a historian, that was a nightmare. Then we moved to a house in Scotland with three large reception rooms, one of which - oh, joy - I was able to use as a combined library and study. It was a necessity really, as my collection of history books was expanding rapidly. Scotland didn't work out, and within two years we were property-hunting back in Surrey, looking in vain, it seemed, for a house with sufficient reception rooms to enable me to recreate my library.
But the description 'study' usually meant a shoe-box large enough only for a desk and computer, even in large properties. After looking at sixty houses and coming near to despair, we at last found our otherwise dream home, and decided we would have to convert the garage, which was even bigger than my room in Scotland. Thus it was that I was able to tailor my environment to the needs of my profession. We had the space professionally converted, then I had the walls lined with shelves, which, even now, eight years later, are always crammed thanks to the never-ending flow of new titles.
It has been wonderful to have this room in which to research and write - I spend my happiest hours here, and I'm not the only one. Everyone loves this room, with its soft and rich green tones, its spaciousness and comfort. But for me it's more than that. As I sit at my desk, I am surrounded by inspiration in the form of the thousands of books that line the shelves - most of them historical, arranged in chronological and subject order, as well as collections of books on art, portraiture, costume and - wait for it - rock memorabilia in my other life!
Here too are paintings, including an exceptional copy of Miguel Sittow's Katherine of Aragon, old prints, family photographs, historical mementoes and ornaments, CDs, LPs, DVDs, even a reproduction Duccio triptych and a model of Hampton Court done in sand by an iconic Sixties rock star whose autobiography I edited. There's a sofa, a table and four chairs for board games, and the cat's basket.
It's peaceful and quiet here, and I can immerse myself in my work. What a tough choice! In the end I chose the last line from Robert Frost's poem 'Hyla Brook': "We love the things we love for what they are. And the fact there is no need to change anything or anyone. There is, indeed, scandal enough here to satisfy the greediest reader. Robert Carr above, centre left , who first rose to the rank of Viscount Rochester and then Earl of Somerset, was the beloved and indulged favourite of King James I, who reigned from to Carr had the misfortune to fall in love with the nobly-born Lady Frances Howard, who had been married at thirteen in to the Earl of Essex.
This marriage was not happy, and had not even been consummated: the Earl, it was claimed, was impotent - at least with Frances. When Frances fell in love with Robert Carr, she refused to cohabit any more with her husband, and her powerful relatives applied to have the marriage annulled.
Despite her clandestine relationship with her lover, Frances managed to convince a panel of matrons and midwives that she was virgo intacta, and - despite grave doubts on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury - her marriage to Essex was formally dissolved. It is certain that the King, who was not a jealous man, had exerted pressure so that his favourite could have the woman he wanted. Some time before his marriage, Carr had come under the influence of the clever but overbearing Sir Thomas Overbury above right , who loathed Frances Howard and had insulted her in his letters, something Frances could never forgive.
Overbury had been privy to the secret love affair between her and Carr, and at a time when both parties were anxious to secure the annulment of the Essex marriage, had openly and virulently opposed their plan to marry. As a result, Carr contrived to have Overbury imprisoned in the Tower to get him out of the way and shut him up, so that the outcome of the nullity suit would not be threatened. King James was happy to comply, for he too desired a union between Carr and Lady Frances.
But Overbury would not shut up, and Frances decided to take matters into her own hands. In September Overbury died, poisoned, it was said, by an enema administered by an apothecary's boy. There is no doubt that Frances had sent poison into the Tower on at least two occasions: once in a phial and once in some tarts. Whether death was actually due to these poisons or to natural causes is another matter, about which Anne Somerset has some intriguing theories.
Many people were privy to the plot, from the Lieutenant of the Tower to the unsavoury quacks in the pay of Lady Frances. Later, it was claimed - probably unfairly - that Carr had been the instigator of the poison plot, and there were even unfounded rumours that King James himself had been involved. Nevertheless, it was two years before a murder inquiry was set up.
This led to the Earl and Countess of Somerset being arraigned for murder, and to the trials and executions of various minor plotters. An enormous amount of research has gone into Unnatural Murder and enriched the narrative. It's a riveting read, a tale fraught with suspense. The author calls Frances Howard 'a remarkable woman, differing radically from the conventional pattern of docile femininity which seventeenth-century females were expected to follow. Everything indicates that she had great strength of will and a fiercely independent spirit. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
In the wake of the boom in historical novels, the relationship between academic history and historical fiction has become a subject of great interest to historians. What is the difference between historical fiction and academic history, and how rigid are the boundaries between the two these days?
How good are readers at differentiating between 'fact' and 'fiction' and how much does it matter if they don't? Is it easier to write a historical novel based on a real character than one about one who is entirely fictional? Does the success of historical fiction benefit or threaten academic history, and what can literary authors and historians learn from each other?
Imagine what it was like to be a fourteenth-century peasant, a prosperous fifteenth-century yeoman farmer, a toll-booth keeper or a Victorian country school child. More than any documented evidence, these immaculately rescued and restored buildings give us an immediate sense of the past. I love it all, but the Bayleaf Farmhouse draws me in again and again, as it relates to a period - the late fifteenth century - with which I am very familiar. All the medieval buildings resonate with me - they are incredible survivals, and it's amazing to see them restored to their original state.
How important is it, as a writer, that you connect with others to form a writing community? I think it's very helpful to be able to get together with other writers to discuss individual experiences of what is essentially a solitary occupation. It's important to have professional support networks, and it's intellectually stimulating to exchange ideas. Can you expand upon this for us? The History Girls are best-selling, critically acclaimed and engaging historians whose expertise spans more than 1, years of history.
We work together professionally, giving joint talks and interviews, and looking at key historic figures and moments from an insightful and lively female perspective, offering a timely investigation of the vital roles that women have played in history. We deal with famous names and major events, but always try to come at them from a new angle, with human stories and fascinating detail, revealing a new insight into the lives of those who lived history; both the high and mighty, and the ordinary people of the past. Whose writing style do you admire the most?
The novelist Norah Lofts'. I have all her books. How important do you believe it is to keep history alive through the medium of fiction? I think it's important to keep history alive - or rather, to make it live for people - through sound research and accessible books, be they fiction or non-fiction.
Why do you think there has been a surge in historical fiction? For the best part of three decades, you could only obtain historical novels such as are popular now in libraries. Publishers wouldn't touch them. Against all the odds, it was a roaring success, because it filled a crucial gap in the market. And then, of course, other publishers started commissioning historical fiction, and a new genre was established. How can you achieve historical accuracy in fiction without it sounding too much like a history book?
You "show rather than tell", and use your imagination credibly, keeping to the historical record where it exists. A children's book called Pantomime Stories. I had loved fairy tales from infancy, and this book held magic for me. I repeatedly borrowed it from our local library, and recently I finally obtained a copy on eBay. What was your favourite book as a child? A Child's Book of Ballet.
I adored ballet, and wanted to be a ballerina. And what is your favourite book or books now? Anything by Norah Lofts. I think she is one of the great unsung authors of the twentieth century. What is your favourite quotation? One by Julian of Norwich, the 14th-century anchoress: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner thing shall be well.
Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre. Especially when played by Toby Stephens! Who is the most under-rated Irish author? I'd find that hard to say. Oscar Wilde is a great favourite of mine, but he's certainly not underrated. Which do you prefer - ebooks or the traditional print version? The traditional print version. I don't like ebooks. What is the most beautiful book you own? Gilded tooled-leather editions of four of my own books, and a stunningly produced edition of the Kelmscott Chaucer.
Where and how do you write? In my library at home, on a desktop computer. What book changed the way you think about fiction? My first novel, Innocent Traitor. I learned so much from the editorial process about the writing and craft of fiction. What is the most research you have done for a book?
Two lever-arch files packed to capacity with notes and transcriptions, plus a ringlet file full of biographical notes and info on places. That was standard for most of my books until I started incorporating research into an online text. What book influenced you the most? The Bible. What book would you give to a friend's child on their 18th birthday? Probably a book on travel depending on where they wanted to go and broadening one's horizons. What book do you wish you had read when you were young?
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. How much more enjoyable grammar would have been! What advice would you give to an aspiring author? Never give up! What weight do you give reviews? Not much, as they represent just one person's opinion. It depends on how you rate the reviewer. What they write can tell you as much about them as the book they are reviewing, and so many have an agenda.
Where do you see the publishing industry going? I hope that with the ending of the recession things will improve for publishers. After all, people will always want to read books. What has being a writer taught you? An inestimable amount in regard to the way books are written, and that a book is only a contribution to a debate at a given point in time. Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Chaucer and Shakespeare - I couldn't imagine better or more witty company! What is the funniest scene you've read? What is your favourite word? When all else is gone, that is what remains, and it is infinitely beautiful. Fiction is easier because you don't have to annotate or reference everything, yet it too has its challenges.
When writing historical fiction you certainly have more scope for creativity, but you have also to ensure that you maintain credibility. And there can be so many different approaches, so you need to choose the right one. Q2 Are you a planner or a pantser? I had to look up 'pantser' - had never heard the term! I know where I'm going from the outset, as I've usually done decades of research on my fiction subjects.
It doesn't take long before I'm on a roll! It's such a colourful period and hugely dramatic - you just couldn't make it up. The Tudors lived when the private lives of monarchs were becoming public knowledge, and with both the growth of diplomacy and literacy came a wealth of vivid records, not just written but also visual: for example Holbein's paintings.
The abundance of documentation is a historian's dream. Q4 Who are your favourite historical characters? There is so much to admire in all of them. Anya Seton, Norah Lofts and Hilda Lewis were all great writers of historical novels who inspired me to write. I still have novels I wrote as a teenager after reading their wonderful books, and they are still my favourite historical novelists. No one writing in that genre today can beat them. Alison revealed that her passion for history was sparked at the age of fourteen when she read her first adult novel, Henry's Golden Queen , about Katherine of Aragon.
This prompted her to read history books to check the accuracy of the historical detail and to begin her early research and writings which would culminate in the publication of her first work Britain's Royal Families. Who or what has influenced your writing? Alison revealed that she has been instrumental in getting some of the works of these three authors reprinted.
You write both historical novels and history books. Which would you say that you prefer writing? Is the process similar? History is a narrative with wonderful stories and characters but you are constrained by the sources. All facts must be checked and verified. With a historical novel you make use of the facts where they exist but where they don't creativity can be used credibly to fill in the missing information. An accomplished and popular historical author, what made you turn your hand to writing fiction? In the late s, Alison was researching and writing a biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Where women in history are concerned, there are very few recorded facts, and these must be carefully pieced together by the historian. There is sometimes no way of filling the gaps, which prompted Alison to try her hand at writing a novel about a real historical figure, the fascinating Lady Jane Grey. A few years, and some rewrites, later, what had started out as a diversion for herself became her first published novel Innocent Traitor. Do you like to relax when you have finished writing a book or are you itching to get on with the next one?
Alison writes her novels and history books back to back. She has just been commissioned to write three more non-fiction historical works, and has already begun work on the first of these, a biography of Mary Boleyn. There are also three new novels in the pipeline, one of which will be a sequel to the highly acclaimed The Lady Elizabeth. This year, , Alison will have been working on no fewer than seven books.
However she does take regular family holidays where she switches off completely from the research and writing! How do you balance the research, writing and promotional aspects of your job? In the last ten to twelve years, Alison's fame has grown, and the subsequent demands upon her time have escalated accordingly. This began with the amazing success in Britain and the USA of her biography Elizabeth the Queen , published coincidentally at the same time as the release of the two films 'Shakespeare in Love' and 'Elizabeth'.
Alison researches as she writes. When writing historical novels, she draws upon her vast bank of published and unpublished works to inform the story and background details. Can you tell us about your writing routines? Mornings are left free for admin, emails and telephone calls. Unless she is doing an event, she works through until 9pm, then spends a couple of hours watching films with her husband, before working on other projects from 11pm onwards, often going to bed after 2am. If you could take only one book to a desert island what would it be?
It tells the story of a house, the families that lived in it and - effectively - the history of England up to the s. With which book would you choose to be stranded on a desert island? I first read these in the Sixties, and they have been my favourite books ever since. What is the worst book you have lever read? If you weren't a best-selling writer, what would you have ended up as? A housewife and mother with a passion for history. What was the last book that you bought? I bought it this week at the National Portrait Gallery.
Have you ever submitted a really nasty review of a rivals book anonymously to an Internet site?
Donald Marshall Revolution
What about a really good review of your own book, anonymously to an Internet site? I have never submitted any reviews to any internet sites, and I will only ever write a review if I can give a good one, because I don't feel it's my place to rubbish other authors' books, especially since I know how much effort goes into a book. What character out of all your books do you most identify with?
I daren't compare myself with Elizabeth I, although I would like to do so in some ways, so I'll settle for Katherine of Aragon. I hope that my principles would prove as staunch as hers if put to the test. Can you write it, or are you just fumbling in the dark? I have no problem with writing about sex, since it's a subject that often crops up in historical biography, although the novels with fictional sex scenes that I have written are not yet in print.
At school, were you a jock, a bookworm or a nerd? I was a bookworm. My children laugh at me for spending the Sixties in libraries. Your new book, Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley , has just been published, can you tell us what it's about? It's a re-examination of one of the most controversial mysteries in history, and my conclusions were based on a wide range of contemporary and secondary sources. And what, you may ask, were those conclusions? I'm not telling - you'll just have to read the book!
What soundtrack is playing in your head when you write? I usually play CDs of medieval and Renaissance music whilst I am researching, but I need peace and quiet when I come to write the book. Have you ever read a Booker prize winner? They're not my kind of books. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. If you could change the plot of any book, what would you do? I wouldn"t tamper with anyone else's book. If your latest book got made into a film, who would you cast as the lead? What should be the punishment for people who break the spines of their books?
Ban them from public libraries. Do you ever sneak into bookshops and rearrange displays in your favour? Of course - I do it all the time. And I ensure that books by author friends are prominently displayed. Is there any reason good enough for banning a book? Sickening violence and obscenity, and vulgarity; these elements do society no favours. What are the best and worst things about being a bestselling author?
The best things are: recognition of one's work; being invited to so many interesting events and meeting so many fascinating people; the ability to do something you love, and would otherwise do for a hobby, for a living. The worst thing is never having enough hours in a day to get on with the next book. Which author has been the biggest influence or inspiration for you? So, what's in the pipeline now? There are ongoing discussions about a book on John of Gaunt, which I've been wanting to write for years.
For me, the great age of historical novel writing came to an end about twenty years ago with the demise of such masters as Norah Lofts, Anya Seton and Hilda Lewis, whose books I still re-read avidly. Sadly, I find few page turners in this particular genre. Therefore I approached The Lady and the Unicorn with trepidation, wondering if I was the right person to review it and do it justice, because I am the first to accept that my tastes are rarely those of the majority.
The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries in the Musee National du Moyen Age at Cluny are famous worldwide, but very little is known about the people who created them in the late Middle Ages. However, the name of the artist who designed the tapestries is unknown although several theories have been advanced , and the workshop where they were woven cannot be conclusively identified.
Tracy Chevalier has taken the few known facts and crafted an exquisite, moving and convincing story, drawing realistic and rounded characters who each tell their aspect of the tale. The theme of the five senses that appears in the tapestries is woven into the plot so cleverly that our perception of the novel is sharpened. This is not just a novel about the creation of a work of art, but a tale of ambition, lust, betrayal and heartbreak, a tale of how the making of these fascinating tapestries came to affect the lives of all who came into contact through them, and what inspired their creators.
That apart. The Lady and the Unicorn is a compelling and enormously enjoyable work, with characters that would not have been out of place in the frank and bawdy tales of Boccaccio, and it has proved to me that the historical novel is still alive, well and thriving. This book will delight Tracy Chevalier's established legion of readers and will doubtless - and deservedly - attract many more. I would write about the fall of Anne Boleyn, the subject of my next non-fiction book. Because a full book allows me the scope to write in depth about this, one of the most dramatic episodes in English history, I am discovering new and fascinating insights.
I can only say that I am passionately enthusiastic about history and that perhaps that communicates itself through my writing. I also believe that history is about people, and people are always interesting. I also see myself as a storyteller, because history is full of good stories, and I like to focus on details, because it is in the details that we obtain the wider picture. Is there a particular reason for this? What do you find so fascinating about the women that you have studied? And what characters some of them clearly were! But I have to say that I also enjoy writing about charismatic and intriguing men too.
I have several favourite characters: Elizabeth I, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anne Boleyn - Anne was my starting point, the first historical character who captured my imagination and set me off on my researches. I was fourteen then, and had a very romantic view of her. You have been praised for both your "impressive scholarly pedigree" and your ability to engage and entertain. Do you think it is difficult for broadcasting and publishing historians to gain and preserve acclaim in the academic world? There is no reason why there should be this divide; after all, we all use the same sources, and our common purpose is surely to aim for the truth and to bring history to life.
An academic historian once wrote a sneering review of one of my books. How did that affect your mindset - was it a knock-back at all? And do you have any advice for budding authors for getting their works into the public domain? Yes, it was a knock-back. After finishing that book in , I rarely completed a project for years.
Fortunately, in the end, I toughened up and made myself see things through. Today, the advice I give to aspiring writers is never give up! Have you been to any recent interesting events? And do you prefer the writing side of what you do? I certainly do enjoy promoting my books, and I love travelling and seeing new places, especially in America, but I also love writing, and I see that as my primary task, which takes precedence above all else. So I block off sections of the year in which writing takes priority over all else.
The problem is, no one takes any notice!! Broadcasting historian Bettany Hughes, for example, complained in a recent interview, of the sexualisation of her image by media commentators. I would be very angry if I appeared on TV and was judged on my appearance or my clothes. How frivolous, and, yes, sexist! Alison Weir is one of Britain's foremost historians and popular authors whose books, both novels and biographies, have been hugely successful.
She attended the City of London School for Girls, then studied at the North Western Polytechnic, where she trained to become a history teacher. The teaching methods employed were rather too trendy for her liking, so she left teaching for some years. Enthralled and excited by it, she embarked on her own research into the Tudor period.
In her spare time she would head to the school library and spend hours in the history section. She quickly filled exercise books with notes about the Tudor dynasty, wrote a biography of Anne Boleyn and several historical plays, and drew up royal family trees on rolls of wallpaper.
Her genealogical research would one day feature in her first published book, Britain's Royal Families. Writing and history remained a passion and a hobby for many years. During the s, she wrote several historical works, but could not find a publisher willing to take on her work. Alison was a civil servant for nine years, then a full-time mother to her children. She continued to write on a part-time basis whilst running a school for children with learning difficulties.
In she became a full-time author and has to date published thirteen titles. Alison is married to Rankin Weir. They have two grown-up children, John and Kate, and live in Surrey. I tend to watch a whole series on DVD rather than hope to catch each episode as they are aired. I love good drama. My favourite band of all time has to be the Walker Brothers. I had lots of ideas buzzing in my head, and so I write during the flight and it really helps me to relax. I have written about ten stories now, although not for publication, just for fun. I try them out on friends and family members! I love going on ghost walks with a guide.
I only got back into flying a few years ago because I used to be terrified of it, and once vowed never to step on a plane again. After that, I started doing book tours in America, and holidaying in various places, and in the past three years I have made 32 flights. The people are so enthusiastic about British history. It's a fabulous place. I also enjoyed Boston, Atlanta, Washington and Philadelphia. I have a thing about that film - I love it. I love the food, history and countryside of France, and I adore Italy. I have recently returned from Berlin, and will shortly return to the Dordogne for the seventh time.
The beautiful chateaux and medieval hill-top villages draw me back again and again. I love cruising, and waking up each morning in a new country. My first cruise was in the Caribbean two years ago. We woke up each day to blue seas and tropical islands. It was amazing. I don't understand people who go abroad and then want to eat British food. Trying new flavours and cuisines is part of the fun. I adore Italian and French cuisine, and seafood is a favourite. Pinot Grigio is my favourite, although I like many other wines. From the Daily Mail, July What book are you reading now?
Seduced by the compelling jacket quotes, I bought this to take on holiday to the Dordogne. Nevertheless, the bygone world of an English seaside town is beautifully evoked. What book would you take to a desert island? What book first gave you the reading bug? A book called Pantomime Stories published by Ward Lock in the early s. As a young child, I was crazy about fairy tales, and used to borrow this illustrated collection again and again from the library. I feel so nostalgic about it that I recently bought a rare copy on eBay. I was surprised at how small the book was compared to my memories of it.
What book left you cold? Quite a few! The Da Vinci Code was one - it just stretches credibility too far, right from the beginning. It disturbs me that people believe it is based on fact. From the Daily Mail, March What book are you reading now? Katherine by Anya Seton , which is a fine novel about Katherine Swynford, the mistress and later the third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; through their children, the Beauforts, she became the ancestress of the Tudors. It's an old favourite that I first read in the Sixties, when it inspired me to research the fourteenth century, and I've re-read it many times since.
What is so impressive is the amount of research that Seton did; I've even seen this book in bibliographies in historical works. No one writes historical novels like this now, which I think is very sad. I return to this again and again, and each time I get something new from it. The prolific Norah Lofts wrote evocatively and skilfully, and drew her characters so very well that we feel we know them as real people in a real world, which is portrayed with convincing period detail.
In this trilogy, one character from each of the generations that owned a house in the imaginary Suffolk town of Baildon from to tells his or her tale, a device that makes for compelling reading. Lofts was also adept at implying sinister undercurrents throughout her narrative, and there are also intriguing hints of the supernatural. These have to be my favourite books of all time. What book would you give to Tony Blair? The Book of Isaiah: 'Nation shall not lift up sword against nation.
Most works by the Bloomsbury Group leave me cold, although I admire their ethos. Yet when the great Bard came to write his plays, he did not adhere slavishly to the facts but employed a degree of dramatic licence, telescoping events and bending the truth to enhance his plots. He also harked back to an earlier tradition that used history as a means of emphasising a moral or philosophical message. Above all, he used the most powerful and beautiful language to create characters who, if they were not entirely authentic, were - and remain - credible in their own right.
Four centuries later, dramatists and directors still resort to Shakespeare's stratagems when tackling historical subjects on stage or on film, and with a resurgence of interest in history having fuelled new costume dramas on stage, film and television, it is perhaps time to ask if there is there any point in dramatised history being historically accurate?
This is a subject on which, as an historian whose life is spent verifying every last detail, I have strong views. And as an historian, I probably have an unfair advantage, for many lay people would neither notice nor care if a character in an historical drama wore costume that was thirty years out of period or spoke in anachronisms. I'm the first to admit that one can be too pedantic. But I also admit to foaming at the mouth when I recently read of a television director who believed it to be "demeaning" to have to follow the facts when making a period drama - a breathtakingly arrogant view, in my opinion.
So how much dramatic licence should be permissable? My view is, that if the production is staged with integrity and has a commanding script delivered by fine actors - as is the case with a new production of Jean Anouilh's "Becket" that is shortly to open in the West End - then a few errors or deliberate changes can be forgiven, and may even lend to the plot.
But when little attempt is made at authenticity, there is deliberate distortion of the facts, and the result is not redeemed by a good script, so that even the best actors are defeated - that sells everyone short. Sadly, there have been too many such dramas in recent years. That's all very well, people say to me, but a while back there was very little history on television or film, and any history is better than no history, isn't it? No, it isn't. The kind of people who like to watch historical dramas are those who are interested in history, and if people are interested in history, they have usually read books and know something about it - in many cases, a great deal.
I can vouch for this, because during the course of numerous events, I have met thousands of people, and many are extremely knowledgeable. Sadly - and I can vouch for this too - they are the very ones who feel sold short by what passes for historical drama these days. Unfortunately, because they have tuned in or paid for their tickets, in the expectation that they are about to see something of great interest to them, these films or series get good returns or ratings, even though the figures do not reflect the opinions of the viewers. As an historian who believes that school children are not taught enough history, I see another danger in twisting the facts or in trying to make historical drama "relevant".
Film and television are powerful media, and if people don't get their information from books, they often accept as gospel what they see in a film. If I am not hearing complaints about how woefully inaccurate a certain production was, I often get questions and arguments culled from some historical travesty of a film, which wastes everyone's time. Why do film-makers alter the facts, when history is already packed with colourful, dramatic stories? There's no point. Henry VIII had six wives, for goodness sake, and beheaded two of them - isn't that drama enough, without inventing further scenes of gratuitous sex and violence?
And no, he wasn't a Tudor version of a lager lout: he was a cultivated man who spoke several languages, read St Thomas Aquinas for pleasure, got excited about theology and had exquisite courtly manners. Historians - and a lot of other people - have known this for a long time. So why are we still seeing variations on the caricature invented by Charles Laughton? Why are we being so patronised? Why are modern audiences being so cynically sold short? The answer, I suspect, lies in the inverted elitism that has so insidiously pervaded our culture in recent years. Let's make an historical drama, but let's make it relevant to today, and let's not get too intelligent or profound about it, because we mustn't be seen to be too elitist.
And because violence and sex sell, we can make the executions more bloody and add the odd rape scene. Even if it never happened. If the set is four hundred years out of period, who cares? It looks good. And let's not bother with headgear, ruffs or formal court dress - tousled hair and open necks look so now. I could go on, because the list of deliberate howlers is endless.
In fact, my family refuse to watch historical dramas with me because I usually end up muttering grimly all the way through. Yet, strangely enough, these are my favourite form of entertainment. Well, some of them. A quick perusal of my extensive video collection reveals that the best ones were made more than thirty years ago. There are also many costume dramas that are not historically accurate but have an authentic setting, good acting and a credible plot, and are hugely enjoyable.
And in that lies the answer to the question of how historically accurate a drama should be: if the setting is authentic, the acting is top rate and the plot is gripping and engaging, any inaccuracy, deliberate or otherwise, can be forgiven. After all, the chief purpose of a drama is to entertain. The same goes for stage productions as well as those on film or television. We can enjoy Shakespeare's 'Richard III', even though we know he was not quite the monster that the Bard portrays, because we are mesmerised by the innate evilness of his character.
Even though Anouilh's Becket is incorrectly called a Saxon, and enjoys a mistress despite his real-life counterpart's vow of chastity, nothing can detract from the powerfully drawn conflict between him and his King, in which honour and ego are paramount issues. We might know that Sir Thomas More was savage towards heretics and delighted in using scatalogical terms against his enemies, but we can still delight in Paul Schofield's portrayal of him as a scholarly man of integrity drawn unwillingly into a conflict of principles in 'A Man for all Seasons'.
Having recently ventured into the field of historical fiction writing, I have discovered that, although an authentic setting has to be established, and the facts incorporated painlessly into the narrative, an author can give rein to flights of fancy wherever the facts are not known. For example, original sources rarely reveal much about people's inner feelings or their sex lives - plenty of room for invention here!
As an historian, I am guite comfortable with that. But I am loath to alter the facts themselves, and in an ideal world, I would prefer it if the makers of historical dramas felt the same way. As a realist, however, I don't expect that to happen. I should be happy therefore - and I know there are many who agree with me - if the only licence that was taken with history was dramatic, and if in every other respect a genuine effort was made to establish authenticity.
It can be done, and there is no good reason why it should not be. There are a lot of talented people out there, and it should surely not be too much of a challenge for them to combine historical accuracy with dramatic excellence. What a contribution that would be, not only to our culture, but to our understanding of history. I guess they didn't know I was a Marine. Ahrens Note: During the Battle of Tulagi , Private Ahrens was mortally wounded while single-handedly fighting back a group of Japanese soldiers attempting to infiltrate Allied lines.
After his superior officer discovered Ahrens the next morning surrounded by dead Japanese troops, he whispered these words and died. The Lord is our God! The Lord is One! Akiva was being flayed by a Roman executioner for his continuing to teach the Torah, despite the Roman prohibition on doing so Talmud Berachot 61b. Because of R. Akiva, it is customary for Jews to recite the Shema as their last words. Is it not meningitis? Note: Alcott had been in ill health for many years and took a turn for the worse after she visited her father.
She did not have meningitis. She may have died of mercury poisoning, the after-effect of an earlier treatment for typhoid fever. You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you. Note: Spoken to his handler, Dr. Irene Pepperberg, when she put him in his cage for the night; he was found dead the next morning.
This wasn't said due to Alex's knowledge of his impending death, but simply because that was what Alex said to Pepperberg every night before being locked in his cage. Time : p. Retrieved on In response to his generals asking the heirless Alexander which one of them would get control of the empire. Note: When asked on his deathbed who was to succeed him, his voice may have been indistinct. Alexander may have said "Krateros" the name of one of his generals , but he was not around, and the others may have chosen to hear "Kratistos— the strongest". Dom vo dvortse, chtoby umeret Translation: Home to the palace to die… Who: Alexander II of Russia Note: His guards heard him utter this phrase when they found his maimed body under a seat from his carriage after he was attacked with bombs by anarchists in an assassination attempt.
He lost his left leg and was taken home where he died hours after his wound. Apetta un minuto Aspettate un momento. Okay, okay, I'll come. Just give it a moment. Chiudi la mia mano, cara amica, sto morendo. Translation: Clasp my hand, dear friend, I am dying. Who: Vittorio Alfieri , was an Italian dramatist and poet, considered the "founder of Italian tragedy.
No pain. Don't cry for me, Rahaman. I'm going to be with Allah. I made peace with God, I'm okay… Rahaman, how do I look? I'm all wet. Who: Gracie Allen , wife and comedy partner of George Burns. Larga vida a la gente! Translation: Sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open again and free men will walk through them to construct a better society. Long live Chile! Long live the people!
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Long live the workers! These are my last words, and I am certain that my sacrifice will not be in vain, I am certain that, at the very least, it will be a moral lesson that will punish felony, cowardice, and treason. Who: Salvador Allende , was a Chilean physician and politician. September 11, Note: Last speech given before he committed suicide before the military forces entered the La Moneda palace when the coup d'etat took place.
Translation: Don't ask me how I am! I understand nothing more. I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man. Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Translation: Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose. Note: As she approached the guillotine, convicted of treason and about to be beheaded, she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner. Translation: Equanimity. Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel. Who: George Appel , executed by electric chair in Alternate: Don't disturb my equation.
Who: Archimedes , an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Note: In response to a Roman soldier who was forcing him to report to the Roman general after the capture of Syracuse, while he was busy sitting on the ground proving geometry theorems. The soldier killed him, despite specific instructions not to, resulting in his execution. Laat het bekend zijn dat homoseksuelen geen lafaards zijn. Translation: Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.
Note: He led a group in bombing the Amsterdam Public Records Office, destroying thousands of files to prevent the Nazis from identifying Jews. Within a week, Arondeus and the other members of the group were arrested. Twelve, including Arondeus, were executed by firing squad. Tali segreti sono stati rivelati a me che tutto quello che ho scritto ora appare come tanta paglia. Translation: Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears as so much straw.
Who: Thomas Aquinas , philosopher, theologian and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism. Let me die in the old uniform in which I fought my battles for freedom, May God forgive me for putting on another. Note: He wanted to wear his old Continental Army uniform. I love you too, honey. Good luck with your show. Who: Desi Arnaz , an American musician, actor, television producer, writer and director. Note: He was speaking on the telephone to his former wife Lucille Ball, regarding her upcoming and ultimately final TV series, Life with Lucy.
I didn't want to leave this world without knowing who my descendant was; thank you, Michael. The ladies have to go first. Goodbye, dearie. I'll see you later. Who: John Jacob Astor IV , an American businessman, real estate builder, investor, inventor, writer, lieutenant colonel in the Spanish—American War, and a prominent member of the Astor family.
Note: The accuracy of this report is disputed. Astor and his wife were traveling on the Titanic when it struck an iceberg and began to sink. As Astor prepared to enter a lifeboat with his wife, a group of female passengers appeared on deck. He gave up his seat and spoke his final words to his wife; he was later found floating in the ocean, dead. Am I dying, or is this my birthday? Note: In her final illness, she awoke on her deathbed to see her family at her bedside. Nobody move please, we are going back to the airport, don't try to make any stupid moves.
Note: This was the second transmission Atta intended to say to the passengers that he transmitted to air traffic control after he pressed the wrong button several minutes earlier. Nostri coniugii memor vive, ac vale. Translation: Live mindful of our marriage, and farewell. Note: His last words in public as reported by Suetonius were the more famous "Behold, I found Rome of clay, and leave her to you of marble. Who: Jane Austen , an English novelist known principally for her five major novels which interpret, critique and comment upon the life of the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century.
Note: In response to her sister Cassandra who had asked her if she wanted something. Brahms which discusses a letter from Cassandra to her niece Fannie Knight after the death of Jane Austen on July 18, I ask you all to forgive me. I ask the people of Samford to forgive me. I ask my mother to forgive me. May you all live long and die happy. God save the King! God be with you all! Yes tell her I died happy with no fear. Goodbye all! Who: Ernest Austin Note: Austin made this statement before being hanged for rape and murder, the last two as he fell through the trap door. He was the last person in Queensland to be hanged.
Note: Spoken to his girlfriend, Tereza Kacerova, the day that he committed suicide. Rew'za khwah'd amed keh men ra sh'nakheth aad an rewz men metweqf kh'wam sh'd keh ba tew bash'm Translation: Had you believed in Me, O wayward generation, every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and willingly would have sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you. Note: His final words were shouted at the spectating crowd during His execution by a firing squad.
The words "this youth" refer to the young Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, who was being executed along with Him. Don't cry for me, for I go where music is born. Who: Johann Sebastian Bach , Baroque composer. Note: Said to his wife on his deathbed. My name and memory I leave to man's charitable speeches, to foreign nations, and to the next age. Who: Francis Bacon , Renaissance scientist. Oh God, here I go!
Who: Max Baer , American boxer. Note: Spoken after a fatal heart attack. My Florida water. Who: Lucille Ball , an American actress, comedian, model, film studio executive and producer. Note: Her response when asked if she wanted anything. Ball's last written words, to Carol Burnett along with her annual birthday gift to her, were Happy birthday, kid. Love, Lucy. Burnett received the message and gift the day after Ball had died.
Oh, you young people act like old men. You have no fun. Who: Josephine Baker , an American-born French dancer, jazz and pop music singer, and actress. Note: The famed starlet was reportedly attempting to seduce a man several decades younger than she was. She died of a stroke later that night.
I'm in the hands of Jesus… Who: Tammy Faye Messner , an American Christian singer, evangelist, entrepreneur, author, talk show host, and television personality. Roe was with Tammy Faye at the moment of her death. Codeine…bourbon… Who: Tallulah Bankhead , an American actress of the stage and screen, and a reputed libertine.
You know. Bill and I have working on Hanna-Barbera studios since many years ago. That was very perfect at all. Who: Joseph Barbera , American animator, director, producer, storyboard artist, and cartoon artist I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty. Who: Alben W. Barkley , former Vice President of the United States, who suffered a fatal heart attack. How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden? Who: P. Barnum , circus entrepreneur.
I can't sleep. Who: J.
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Barrie , author of works including Peter Pan. Is everybody happy? I want everybody to be happy. I know I'm happy. Die, I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him. Who: John Barrymore , an American actor on stage, screen and radio. Now I can cross the Shifting Sands. Who: L. Frank Baum , author of The Wizard of Oz. Are you guys ready? Let's roll. The plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Rain had always been a harbinger of tragedy for me. Who: George Beard, an American neurologist who popularized the term neurasthenia. Note: His death occurred during a rainstorm. Translation: Bonaparte … the island of Elba … the King of Rome. Translation: I am thinking of earlier times. Who: Ludwig Beck , German general, committing suicide after the failed attempt to kill Hitler, 20 July I am ready to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace. Who: Thomas Becket , Archbishop of Canterbury, d. Now comes the mystery. Who: Henry Ward Beecher , evangelist, d.
March 8, Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est. Translation: Applaud, my friends, the comedy is finished. Who: Ludwig van Beethoven , German composer. Note: His final words are subject to historical debate, and vary with many biographies. Among those that have been reported to be his last words are: I shall hear in Heaven. I feel as if up to now I had written no more than a few notes. There, do you hear the bell? Don't you hear it ringing? The curtain must drop. My curtain is falling.
Too late. Another biographer has him saying nothing; simply shaking his fists defiantly at the heavens as a thunderstorm raged outside his window. Maybe they only had one rocket?
Note: He was taking cover in a bunker after they were hit by a rocket. A second volley destroyed the bunker and Beeter was killed. Note: He was delirious because of high fever and illness. Who: Alexander Graham Bell , a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone. Bell indeed died of a heart attack watching an Eagles game that day. Just don't leave me alone. Who: John Belushi , an American comedian, actor, and musician. The dogs are in the enclosed pool area. Garage side door is open. Note: This was a text sent to fellow wrestler and longtime friend Chavo Guerrero after Benoit had murdered his wife and children and shortly before he hung himself.
How did the Mets do today? Note: The Mets won that day. And where do you come from? Who: Isaiah Berlin , a Latvian-British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas. Note: To the nurse caring for him. Hardy, Henry The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library. Translation: I'll need it. Note: In response as he drove away after he inspected a bullet in his vehicle's wheel and a newspaper man shouted "Good luck! Translation: This time it will serve me for the voyage from which there is no return, the voyage of eternity. Who: Claude Bernard , a French physiologist.
Note: Spoken when he began to feel cold and a cover was placed on his feet. Never fear; if you will but have patience I don't doubt we shall get through; but take care how you ever get in such a scrape again. Don't die like I did. Bestie, you've got to help me. They're having a fucking party in here. I heard them last night, Bestie. They were having drinks and there were girls. Note: Best died as a result of a lung infection and multiple organ failure caused by years of alcoholism. The first line was published in News of the World with a picture of Best lying in his hospital bed, five days before his death.
The second line, heard by his son Calum, came during after the beeping machines in his ward sent him hallucinating that he was at a club. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home. Note: According to Emily Wyant, a close friend of Cassie's, she was heard praying in these last words before Eric Harris yelled "Peek-a-boo! This account disproves the myth that Bernall said "yes" to Dylan Klebold before he shot her dead it was actually Valeen Schnurr who got terribly shot before being asked by Klebold if she believed in God and surviving the whole ordeal. Translation: How slow my death agony is.
Who: Sarah Bernhardt , a French stage and early film actress. Ae rab, meri madad karen Translation: O Lord, help me… for I am innocent. Note: Said shortly before his hanging. Translation: Give me coffee, I'm going to write. Who: Olavo Bilac , Brazilian poet. Translation: Who is it? Who is it? Note: When Billy saw sheriff Pat Garrett , he failed to reconize him due to the poor lighting. Garrett then shot him to death. I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank all of my family and friends for my prayers and who supported and believed in me.
My Father, I'm being paroled to heaven. I will now spend all my holidays with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Peace be with you all. Who: Kenneth Biros , first person executed by a one-drug lethal injection in Ohio on December 8, Translation: Home. Note: Scrawled on a piece of paper; there is debate as to whether Bismarck meant to convey that he was returning to the afterlife or was simply delirious or intoxicated.
Translation: Help! Note: Blanchard, a balloonist, said these words when her balloon crashed, killing her. D-Von, get the table! Goodbye, kid. Hurry back. Note: The line was spoken to his wife, Lauren Bacall, as she left his bedside to pick up her children. She returned to find Bogart in a coma, from which he never regained consciousness. Damn it! How will I ever get out of this labyrinth? Who: Simon Bolivar , a Venezuelan military and political leader. Who: Napoleon Bonaparte , French military leader and emperor who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century.
He died in exile in Saint Helena on 5 May Wa mael'iislam Note: In , he was conducting a televised speech in Arabic to an audience at a newly-opened cultural centre in Annaba, when his assassin struck. Vielen Dank. Translation: Ah, that tastes nice. Thank you. Who: Johannes Brahms , a German composer and pianist. Note: Spoken after he had a small glass of wine. Translation: Push on!
Translation: How do you expect me to make a living? Who: Mohamed Bouazizi , Tunisian street vendor. Note: Bouazizi set himself on fire on 17 December , in response to the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he said was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. At AM local time, he shouted these words while standing in the middle of traffic, then doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight with a match.
This act of self-immolation became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution , and eventually the wider Arab Spring. Je vais ou je vas mourir, l'un et l'autre se dit ou se disent. Who: Dominique Bouhours , French grammarian. Music has been my doorway of perception and the house that I live in. Who: David Bowie , English rock musician.
I didn't murder the Hodges family. I've never murdered anybody. I'm going to my death with a clear conscience. I am going to my death having had a great life because of my two great sons, Mike and Doug. Contrary to his claim, overwhelming evidence proved that he did indeed kill William Hodges, his wife Teresa and their two children Winter and Anah, ages 11 and 4. I have no final statement. Not bloody likely! Who: Unknown British Sergeant Note: Reportedly said during the last stand of the 44th Regiment of Foot, in response to an offer of surrender, shortly before their massacre by Afghan fighters at the Battle of Gandamak.
Sarah I miss and need you. Who: Bobbi Kristina Brown , an American reality television and media personality, singer, and actress. Note: Last known tweet to her friend Bess Beckmann before she went into a coma and died months later. I'm going away tonight. Who: James Brown , American singer, songwriter, musician, and recording artist. Source: Charles Bobbit, Brown's longtime personal manager and friend. Note: James Brown uttered his last words minutes before his death, and then he took three, long quiet breaths and closed his eyes. His very last words were: "I want you to look after my wife… and little man.
I'm on fire. I'm burning up. Burning up. I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think vainly, flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done. Who: John Brown , an American abolitionist. Note: These words were not spoken, but written on a note and handed to a guard right before his execution. His spoken last words are usually considered to be: This is a beautiful country.
Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that at least I meant well for my country. I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends. Who: Ted Bundy , an American serial killer, kidnapper, rapist, and necrophile who assaulted and murdered numerous young women and girls.
Note: Those were Bundy's last words before being executed in the electric chair. I'm the problem. Who: David A. Burke Note: Burke replied to the captain of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight , who inquired what "the problem" was after Burke fired a gun in the cabin of the plane. Burke shot the pilots and himself, deliberately crashing the flight. On that subject I am coy.
Note: Burr was an atheist. His last words were a response to the efforts of his friend, Reverend P. Van Pelt, to get Burr to state that there was a God. Back in no time. Who: William S. Burroughs , American novelist, short story writer, essayist, painter, and spoken word performer. Note: Spoken to a friend as he was being loaded into an ambulance after suffering a heart attack; he was comatose upon arrival at the hospital and never regained consciousness.
I love you, too. Who: George H. Bush , before his death. The corruption of the state shall fall. Governor Taft, you will not be re-elected. The rest of you, you know where you can go. Who: John William Byrd, Jr. Note: Byrd told his family he loved them and that they should keep fighting the death penalty. Who: Lord Byron , British poet. I went the distance. Who: Steve Byrnes , an American television announcer and producer. Note: Final words sent from a tweet.
Min qibal rabi alkaebati, laqad kunt najihatan. Translation: By the Lord of the Ka'bah, I have been successful. Who: Ali ibn Abi Talib , cousin and son-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, ruling over the Islamic caliphate from to Note: This was spoken after being hit on the head with a poisoned sword, while leading the Morning Prayer, by Ibn Maljam, a fundamentalist.
C [ edit ] Acta est fabula, plaudite! Translation: You too, my child? Suetonius himself, however, actually discounts these claims, and asserts that Caesar said nothing as he died, apart from a groan. His definite last words according to Suetonius were instead, Ista, quidem vis est! Why, this is violence! Translation: I live! I can't see anything. I've got the bows up… I'm going! Uh— Who: Donald Campbell , British speed record breaker who broke eight absolute world speed records.
Context: Final radio transmission from Bluebird K7 as she lifted from the surface of Conniston Water, flipped bow over stern and smashed to pieces on the lake surface in January Campbell was attempting to set a new world water speed record exceeding mph. His first run was mph. The crash occurred on the return run. Had he completed it, it would have been fast enough to set a record exceeding mph. This is not the end of me.
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Badly mishandled. Nose broken at last interrogation. My time is up. Was not a traitor. Did my duty as a German. If you survive, please tell my wife… Who: Wilhelm Canaris , member of the July 20 plot , his last note before execution to the man in the cell next to him. It's me, it's Buddy… I'm cold.
Who: Truman Capote , writer. Note: 'Buddy' was Capote's aunt's nickname for him. Why is it, is it the strength of the seam, or the wealth of the seam, that you continue to send men into work in such a dangerous environment? Note: During a media conference that was held at Beaconsfield, Tasmania on 7 May , Richard Carleton asked this question to Matthew Gill mine manager of the Beaconsfield mine , in light of the Beaconsfield mine collapse.
When Gill declined to answer the question, Carleton walked away and suffered a heart attack; he was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital. So, this is death. Who: Thomas Carlyle , Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher.
I hope so. Who: Andrew Carnegie , steel magnate and philanthropist. Note: Spoken to his wife whom had bid him goodnight. Milan: What a beautiful place to die. Who: John Carradine , an American actor, best known for his roles in horror films, Westerns and Shakespearean theatre. Hours before he was stricken, he had climbed the steep steps of Milan's Gothic cathedral, the Duomo. Translation: Don't abandon my Indians!
I just wish I had time for one more bowl of chili. Who: Kit Carson , American frontiersman. Note: His final words have also been reported as " Adios, compadres. Who: George Washington Carver , an American botanist and inventor. Ho vissuto come filosofo, e morto come cristiano. Translation: I have lived as a philosopher, and die as a Christian.
I hear the train a-comin. Who: Johnny Cash , American country music singer. So much wasted time. We got a bad fire! All three crew members perished in a launchpad fire, Translation: You see, this is how you die. Who: Coco Chanel , French fashion designer of women's clothes and founder of the Chanel brand.
Approaching dissolution brings relief. Who: Neville Chamberlain , British prime minister. Who: Graham Chapman , comedian of Monty Python fame. Note: Spoken to his adopted son who had just arrived at the hospital. Tell [Carl] Mays I'm okay. Who: Cleveland Indians' baseball player Ray Chapman. Note: Chapman had been accidentally hit in the head by a pitch from Carl Mays, and died from complications of a skull fracture This was thirty-two years before batting helmets were first worn Pittsburgh Pirates, , and fifty years before Major League Baseball had made them mandatory To this day, Chapman is the only Major League Baseball player ever to die as a direct result of injuries sustained during a game.
I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible Crown, where no disturbance can be, no disturbance in the world. You must pardon me, gentlemen, for being a most unconscionable time a-dying. Who: Charles II , son of the above, Ay Jesus. Why not? After all, it belongs to him. Who: Comedian Charlie Chaplin , d. Yo no quiero morir, por favor no me dejen morir.
Translation: I don't want to die. Please don't let me die. Note: Due to a severe respiratory infection, he was unable to speak for several days before his death. According to Venezuelan general Jose Ornella, he mouthed these words before suffering a massive heart attack and dying. U menya ne bylo shampanskogo v techeniye dolgogo vremeni. Translation: I haven't had champagne for a long time. Who: Anton Chekhov , playwright, Note: His doctor had given him champagne after all other attempts to ease the symptoms of death from tuberculosis failed.
Take a step forward lads - it'll be easier that way. Translation: As this earth will suffocate me, I implore you to have my body opened so that I will not be buried alive. Translation: Not any more. Translation: Play Mozart in memory of me—and I will hear you. Who: Frederic Chopin , Polish composer and pianist.
Note: He had a neurotic fear of being buried alive. The first quote was written on a note some hours before his death. The second quote was spoken to his physician when asked if he was suffering greatly; he died about two hours later. The third quote is what Chopin reportedly murmured on his death-bed The opera reader , Biancolli, , p.
In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living color, you are going to see another first — attempted suicide. Who: Christine Chubbuck , year-old anchorwoman who, on July 15, , during technical difficulties during a broadcast on WXLT-TV in Sarasota, Florida , said these words on-air before producing a revolver and shooting herself in the head While she drew the gun on camera, the technicians quickly cut the video feed, but the gunshot could be clearly heard.
She was pronounced dead in hospital fourteen hours later. I'm so bored with it all. Who: Winston Churchill , a British statesman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Note: This was spoken before slipping into a coma and dying nine days later. Nihil propriis quid facis, latro, autem non tentant recte ut interficias me. Translation: There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly.
Who: Cicero , Roman statesman and orator. Note: These words are directed at Herennius, his assassin by order of Marc Antony, triumvir and co-ruler of Rome. Herennius was a centurion. So remember, just when you think all the sounds of dogs barking, people mowing their lawns and children screaming are driving you mad, they may just be keeping you sane!
Who: Dick Clark , American radio and television personality. Note: From a blog post nine days before his death. While not his last spoken words Clark had difficulty speaking due to a stroke he experienced seven years prior , they were the last words he made to the public. Telegraph Mr. Who: Henry Clay , an American lawyer and planter, politician, and skilled orator. Note: Spoken to his son. Harrison appears to be J. Harrison, Clay's executor.
Source: "The Century Magazine", vol. Translation: So here it is! Note: "It" was the small asp which she allowed to bite her. Historians dispute the cause of her death. Many believe it was not an asp that she used to commit suicide, but rather some makeshift poison. Absolutely not! Who: Montgomery Clift , actor. Thank God. I'm tired of being the funniest person in the room. Who: Del Close , improviser, teacher and comedian, d.
Who: Kurt Cobain , an American musician who was best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter for Nirvana Note: Cobain was quoting Neil Young lyrics when he wrote this line in his suicide note. The full context of the note is available online. Il marche vers moi, sans se presser. Translation: Since the day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking towards me, without hurrying. Who: Jean Cocteau , French writer, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. I love you all.
Who: Natalie Cole , an American singer-songwriter, and actress. Note: Spoken to her younger twin sisters. I love you and my head hurts. Who: Gary Coleman , an American actor, voice artist, and comedian.
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Can you get a shot of this gun? Note: On 20 June , Collinson was supervising the demolition of a bungalow that had been built by Albert Dryden without planning permission. After a BBC camera crew arrived, Dryden produced an unlicensed pistol, and Collinson invited the crew to focus on it. Dryden was subsequently arrested after a stand-off and was found guilty by a jury of murder and three counts of attempted murder, being sentenced to life imprisonment with a tariff of 13 years.
More weight. I curse you Corwin and all of Salem! Who: Giles Corey , while being crushed during the Salem witch trials because he would not answer the court. Note: The first line was said while being crushed during the Salem Witch Trials for refusing to answer the court. After long hours of pain, Corey then uttered the second quote and died.
Lady, you shot me! Good morning, Robert. Coolidge is also said to have been quoted near his death: " I feel I no longer fit in with these times. I am guilty. My sentence is just: I deserve my fate. And may God have mercy on my soul. I'm just tired. Note: The first line was the last thing Cornell said to his fans after performing his last song with Soundgarden at a concert. Within 60 minutes later, he was on the phone with his wife, slurring his words and repeatedly saying the second line before hanging up.
Wie bent u? Translation: Who are you? Who: Count of Nychlenborch , Frisian freedom fighter. Note: After being stabbed in the chest near the heart-area by unknown assassins, the old count asked who did it; on which the assassin replied: "Death. Who: Noel Coward , playwright. Died of natural causes. We're looking in… we're overlooking the Financial Center. Three of us. Two broken windows. OH, GOD!
He was connected to a dispatcher, and he said the above phrase when the South Tower collapsed after it'd been hit by one of the airplanes used in the attacks. No, my pain is too much, Fazila. I can't make it, I'm in too much pain. She later died of her injuries. It don't matter; I figure I licked the Rock anyway. Who: Bernard Coy , convicted criminal, shot while trying to escape Alcatraz prison known as "The Rock" Dammit, don't you dare ask God to help me!
Who: Joan Crawford. Note: This comment was directed towards her housekeeper who began to pray aloud. That was a great game of golf, fellers. Who: Bing Crosby , American singer and actor. Note: He was playing the whole 18 holes of golf, even when his doctor said to only do nine. What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Who: Crowfoot , chief of the Siksika First Nation.
I am confound. Who: Aleister Crowley. British occultist, mystic, poet, mountain climber. This is open to debate, because some sources report Crowley dying alone, and others claim that he said Sometimes I hate myself. That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted. Who: Louis Francis Cristillo , an American actor and comedian. Note: Published newspapers reporting his death have him asking the nurse to move him onto his side, and report last words as being "I think I'll be more comfortable. Je ne le veux pas. Translation: I don't want it. Who: Marie Curie , Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist.
Note: She had been offered an injection to ease her pain. Hurrah Boys! Let's get these last few reds then head on back to camp.