Marie Antoinette, last Queen of France before the French Revolution, said “let them eat cake” when asked to help starving peasants.
In the 18th century, queen Marie Antoinette wasn’t popular amongst the people of France. To some, she appeared to embody the aristocracy: out of touch, naïve, and selfish. She was so reviled that she, along with her family, was executed via guillotine.
Before she was executed, she was told that the peasants were starving. She allegedly responded with “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which translates roughly to “let them eat cake.” This claim was circulated via print to the already angry French populace. Ever since, people have attributed the phrase to Marie Antoinette.
Misbar’s investigation found that there is no evidence that Marie Antoinette said, “let them eat cake.” Some even assert that it would be against Antoinette’s nature to say something so out-of-touch.
So where does this quote come from? Some say that it’s attributable to Marie-Thérèse, a Spanish princess married to King Louis XIV. The French revolutionaries may have heard this story from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions. In the text, he refers to an aristocrat saying, “let them eat pastry.”
Marie Antoinette's alleged quote is thus a historical myth.