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Let Them Eat Cake; er, Brioche. Oh, Nevermind...

Despite what you may have heard, Marie Antoinette never said 'Let them eat cake'


Archduchess Marie Antoinette
Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

SAY WHAT you will about her, Marie Antoinette never actually uttered the words "Let them eat cake." We have that on the authority of biographer Lady Antonia Fraser, who spoke on the subject at the 2002 Edinburgh Book Fair.

Though historians have known better all along, it is still popularly believed that Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI and queen of France on the eve of the French Revolution, uttered the insensitive remark upon hearing peasants' complaints that there wasn't enough bread to go around: "Let them eat cake," she supposedly said. It's simply not true.

"It was said 100 years before her by Marie-Therese, the wife of Louis XIV," Fraser explains. "It was a callous and ignorant statement and she [Marie Antoinette] was neither."

Truth be known, the attribution is doubly erroneous in English, because the word "cake" is a mistranslation. In the original French the alleged quote reads, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche," which means, literally, "Let them eat rich, expensive, funny-shaped, yellow, eggy buns."

You can see why it caught on.

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