Government and Politics

Marie Antoinette

Did Marie Antoinette really say, “Let them eat cake”?

No, the widely quoted phrase was incorrectly attributed to her, and the entire story was probably made up. Nevertheless, the legend is not far from fact: As the daughter of a Holy Roman Emperor (Francis I), the beautiful Marie Antoinette (1755–1793) was accustomed to a life of luxury. Unhappy in her marriage to Louis XVI (1754–1793), king of France, she pursued her own pleasurable interests with abandon. Despite the economic problems that plagued France at the time, she lived an extravagant lifestyle, which included grand balls, a “small” palace at Versailles, theater, gambling, and other frivolities. She was completely disinterested in the affairs of the nation. Many French people blamed her for corruption in the court. In short, she did much to earn herself the terrible reputation that has followed her through history.

Unpopular in her own day, one of the stories that circulated about her had Marie Antoinette asking an official why the Parisians were angry. When he explained to the queen that it was because the people had no bread, she replied, “Then let them eat cake.” The French Revolution, which began in 1789, soon put an end to Marie Antoinette’s excesses. Along with her husband, she was put to death by guillotine in 1793.

The phrase “Let them eat cake” was incorrectly attributed to Marie Antoinette, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I.

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