Assassinated, Beheaded or Natural Causes: Do You Remember How These Famous Figures Died?

By: Khadija Leon
Image: Hans Holbein via Wikimedia Commons / Youtube

About This Quiz

People die all the time, but the circumstances of their deaths vary and when you are a celebrity, politician or religious figure, it tends to make headlines. Can you guess whether these people were assassinated, beheaded or died of natural causes? Take this quiz to find out!

Nelle Harper Lee is a Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist best known for her book, To Kill a Mockingbird. On the morning of Feb. 19, 2016, she died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Monroeville, Alabama.

George Washington was an American soldier who served as the first president of the United States of America, and was named as one of the founding fathers of the country. He died of acute laryngitis at Mount Vernon on Dec. 14, 1799.

Lou Gehrig was an American baseball player who played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees in the Major Baseball League. Given the nickname “The Iron Horse” he set multiple records and was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. On his 36th birthday, he was diagnosed with ALS, a disease which killed him some 2 years later.

Abraham Lincoln was an American lawyer and statesman, who served as the 16th President of the United States of America. His term started in March 1861 and lasted until his assassination, when he was shot in the back of the head by John Wilkes Booth in April 1865.

Marvin Gaye was an American singer and songwriter whose best hits included “Sexual Healing”, “I Heard it Through the Grape Vine” and “Let’s Get It On” was called, “Prince of Motown and Soul”. On April 1, 1984, he was shot in the chest and left shoulder by Marvin Gaye Sr., his father.

Adolf Hitler was a German politician who was the leader of the Nazi party and played a central role in the Holocaust and in World War II. On April 30, 1945, with the Russians less than a day away from where he and his wife were hiding, they both swallowed cyanide capsules, and he later shot himself with a service pistol.

Sitting Bull was a Native American leader who was one of the main persons to unite his people and provide resistance to the U.S. government and their policies. In an attempt to arrest him on the reservation, he was shot and killed by an Indian agency police officer.

Michael Jackson was an American singer and dancer who was often referred to as the “King of Pop” and was one of the best-selling artists of all-time. In 2009, the singer died from acute Propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication prescribed to him by his personal physician, Conrad Murray.

Marie Antionette was married to Louis Auguste, who later became the king of France, Louis XVI. In October of 1792, she was found guilty of depleting the national treasury, conspiracy against the state and high treason. She was later sentenced to death by decapitation the following year.

Nancy Reagan was an American actress and the wife of the 40th President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, making her the first lady from 1981 to 1989. In 2016, she died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter whose paintings are some of the most famous in the world. Some of his work includes The Starry Night, Irises, Almond Blossoms and his self-portraits. In 1890, the artist shot himself in the chest, which led to his death a few hours later.

Andrew Johnson was a congressman and also the vice president to Abraham Lincoln. After LIncoln's assassination in 1865, he became the 17th president of the United States of America. He suffered from two strokes in 1875, one on July 28th and the other just two days later, which led to his death the following morning.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the royal prince of Hungary and Bohemia. On June 1914, he and his wife were assassinated by the Black Hand. Their deaths were the first in a chain of events that let to World War I.

James A. Garfield was a Senate member who and the 20th president of the United States. On July 2, 1881, Garfield was shot in the back by Charles Guiteau and after 11 weeks of therapy, succumbed to his injuries.

Joan of Arc is a French heroine who played a significant role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War from 1337 to 1453, helping her country to gain an upper hand. At the age of 18, she was captured and just one year later, she was burned at the stake.

Jane Seymour was the Queen of England and the 3rd wife of King Henry VIII from 1536 to 1537. She died of post-natal complications giving birth to her son and future heir, King Edward VI. Of his 6 wives, she was the only one to receive a queen’s funeral.

Louis XIV, sometimes called the Sun King, was the king of France from 1643 to 1715, and is known for having the longest reign of any European monarch (72 years). Four days before his 77th birthday, he died of gangrene.

John F. Kennedy was a former member of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, and later became the 35th president of the United States. On November 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, the president was fatally shot by Lee Harvey Oswald.

Steve Irwin was an Australian conservationalist and television personality best known from the TV series Crocodile Hunter (1996) and the Croc Files with his wife Terri. He was known for featuring dangerous animals on his show, but it was 2006 while filming for his daughter’s program that he was stabbed with a stingray barb which punctured his lung, causing him to bleed to death.

Louis XVI was the king of France from 1774 – 1792. He was best known for trying to reform the country during the enlightenment period, and for being beheaded by guillotine on January 21, 1793 after being found guilty of treason.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military leader and was also the Emperor of the French. In May of 1821, Napoleon died, and although his cause of death has been debated for many years, it was confirmed that it was due to gastric cancer and stomach ulcers.

Carrie Fisher was an America actress best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, as well as her role in When Harry Met Sally (1989). In 2016, she suffered from a medical emergency while on a plane and four days later, she died. The cause of death was listed as a cardiac arrest.

Albert Einstein is a German physicist known for developing the theory of relativity. In April of 1955, Einstein who had previously had surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, experienced internal bleeding from it. After refusing surgery, he died the next morning at Princeton Hospitals.

Theodore Roosevelt was an American soldier and statesman who served as the 25th vice president and 26th president of the United States of America. On Jan. 6 1919, Roosevelt died from a pulmonary embolism after complaining of breathing problems, the night before.

Joseph Stalin was the General Secretary of the Committee of the Soviet Union, and was responsible for the deaths of millions of people. On March 1, 1953, he was found on his bedroom floor having suffered from cerebral hemorrhage. He died four days later and during the autopsy, he was also found to suffer from atherosclerosis.

Diana, Princess of Wales, was the wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, who happened to be the heir to the British throne. She shared two sons with the prince, whom she divorced on Aug. 28 1996. On Aug. 31, 1997, she was killed in a car crash while her driver was passing through the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris.

Steve Jobs was an American inventor and entrepreneur who was one of the co-founders of Apple Inc, and on the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company. On Oct. 5, 2011, Jobs died from complications due to a relapse from islet-cell pancreatic cancer.

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII and was the queen of England from 1533 to 1536. After being accused of adultery, incest and high treason (in the form of plotting the king’s death), she was decapitated on May 19, 1536.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American minister and activist best known for the role he played in the civil rights movement and his “I Have a Dream” speech. On April 4, 1968, while standing out on the 2nd floor of the Lorraine Motel, he was fatally shot by James Earl Ray.

Richard III was the last king from the house of York and king of England from 1483 to 1485 after his older brother, Edward IV died. In 1485, Richard was fatally struck with a sword during the Battle of Bosworth Field.

David Bowie was an English singer and actor who was a music icon for over multiple decades, selling over 140 million albums, making him one of the best-selling artists in the world. Just two days after his 69th birthday, he died from liver cancer, a disease which he was diagnosed with only 18 months earlier.

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer and literary critic who was best known for his mysterious and macabre short stories and poetry. Although his death certificates were lost, it was reported to be from cerebral inflammation due to an unknown cause.

Alan Rickman was an English actor best known for his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. The award-winning actor was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August of 2015 and died on Jan. 14, 2016, a few weeks before his 70th birthday.

Kim Jong-il was the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from 1994 to 2011. During his reign, the country experienced some of the worst conditions that it has ever faced, including famine and terrorism. On Dec. 17, 2011, the ruler died of a heart attack while he was travelling on a train.

Fidel Castro was a Cuban communist revolutionary leader who served as the Prime Minister and President of Cuba until 2008. He was known for forming alliances with the Soviets and agreeing to allow them to place nuclear weapons on the island. He was said to have died of natural causes on Nov. 25, 2016.

Indira Gandhi was an Indian stateswoman and the first (and only) female prime minister in India’s history. She served as minister from January 1966 to 1977 and later from January 1980 until she was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984.

Jesus of Nazareth was a religious leader and one of the most important figures in the Christian faith. He was later arrested for claiming to be the king of the Jews, an event that would later lead to his crucifixion and death.

Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of king Henry VIII, and the queen of England from 1540 to 1541. Almost 17 months later, she was stripped of her royal titles and beheaded for committing adultery while she was married to the king.

Pope John Paul I was the sovereign of Vatican City and head of the Catholic Church for 33 days from Aug. 26, 1978 to Sept. 29, 1978, one of the shortest reigns in the history of the popes. Although there are several conspiracy theories related to his death, it was determined that he died of a heart attack.

Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer and cultural icon known as one of the most influential and bestselling musicians of our time. In 1977, he was diagnosed with acral lentiginous melanoma, and after refusing to amputate the toe, the cancer spread to his brain and lungs, causing his death on May 11, 1981.

Walt Disney was an American entrepreneur and film producer who was responsible for producing hundreds of movies and dozens of amusement parks around the world. In November 1966, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and on Dec. 15, he died from circulatory collapse which was caused by his cancer.

Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian activist who led the Indian Independence movement against the British (1857 to 1947). He was known for displaying non-violet forms of protest and was a symbol of civil rights and freedom throughout the country. On Jan. 30, 1948, he was shot three times by Nathuram Godse on his way to a prayer meeting.

Elvis Presley was an American singer and actor who was often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll”. On Aug. 16, 1977, he was found unresponsive in his bathroom, and was pronounced dead later that day. At the time surrounding his death, the star suffered from many conditions, but the cause of death was determined to be a heart attack.

Elizabeth I was the Queen of both England and Ireland and the last monarch from the Tudor House. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and has been said to have died from a bacterial illness called blood poisoning, on March 24, 1603.

Rosa Parks was an activist during the Civil Rights Movements and is best known for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger. Although she was not the first person to attempt this, she became a national symbol in the resistance against racial segregation. She died in 2005 of natural causes.

William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States of America from March 1897 until his assassination. On the Sept. 6, 1901, when the president was scheduled to meet the public, Leon Czolgosz concealed his gun in a handkerchief and shot the president twice in his abdomen. He died on Sept. 14 from gangrene which poisoned his blood.

The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaeva of Russia was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. On July 17, 1918, at the age of 17, she along with the rest of her family were murdered by the Bolshevik secret police. For years, there were rumors of her escape, but DNA testing confirmed her death in the year 2000.

Helen Keller is an America author and lecturer who was born a healthy child, but at the age of 19 months after contracting an unknown illness lost her ability to see and hear. She, with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, was able to learn, communicate and achieve great things. She died of natural causes at the age of 87.

John Lennon was an English singer who was best known as one of the founding members of one of the most successful bands of all-time, The Beatles. Three weeks after the release of his album Double Fantasy in 1980, he was shot four times in the archway of his New York City residence by Mark David Chapman.

Bruce Lee was an American martial artist and actor who brought the martial arts culture to America, changing how Asians were viewed by them. In May 1973, the actor suffered from seizure for which he was given the diagnosis of cerebral edema. In July he was pronounced dead after having an allergic reaction to drugs given to him by his friend, causing his brain to swell even more.

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