Let them eat cake! It’s one of the most famous quotations in history, and it’s been attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette. And yet, it’s not something the wife of King Louis XVI actually said.
Instead of let them eat cake, you may have heard that Marie Antoinette said “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which means let them eat brioche. (Brioche is a rich bread made from flour, sugar, milk, butter, and eggs.)
She didn’t say this either.
The quote “let them eat cake” — or, technically, “let them eat brioche” — first appeared in philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, written in 1765. In it, he wrote, “At length I remembered the last resort of a great princess who, when told that the peasants had no bread, replied: ‘Then let them eat brioche.'”
Marie Antoinette didn’t marry Louis XVI or move to Versailles until 1770.
So Who Said Let Them Eat Cake?
It might have been Maria Theresa of Spain, the first wife of King Louis XIV and Queen of France from 1660-1683. In Marie Antoinette: The Journey, Antonia Fraser suggests Theresa said if the French do not have bread, they should eat the crust of the paté (la croûte de pâté). Honestly, we’re betting Louis XIV (aka pompous “Sun King”) said it or Rousseau simply made it up.
But how did Marie Antoinette get credited with this quote?
Antoinette was disliked by many people in France — she waited seven years before producing an heir to the throne, she was often homesick for Austria, and like everyone at Versailles, she spent a lot of money on lavish things. So the French Revolution transformed her into their scapegoat, and she became the symbol of a decadent monarchy that couldn’t care less about the people they served.
- Eliminated the Queen’s Belt tax that taxed the poor
- Adopted numerous orphans
- Supported the Maison Philanthropique, a home for the blind, elderly, and widowed
- Established a home for unwed mothers
- Brought blankets and food to the poor and sick
- Sold the royal flatware to provide grain for families during the bread shortage of 1787
So even if the quote had originated during her reign, her track record of giving back makes it seem unlikely that she would’ve uttered it.
Why Is Let Them Eat Cake Offensive?
Valid question. We love cake, we love brioche, and honestly we wouldn’t even turn down some paté scraps.
But during the French Revolution (1789-1799), French peasants and the working class spent 50% of their income on bread. Suggesting that if peasants had no bread they could simply eat cake or brioche — which was even more expensive — revealed how out of touch a monarch was with ordinary life.
The phrase is a symbolic way to show that someone is selfish, uncaring, or blissfully ignorant. I mean, Jeeves, can’t they just eat cake if they don’t have bread? Or maybe they can just distract themselves with a fun hobby, like spinning silk. Silly peasants!
What Does Let’s Eat Cake Mean?
Our name Let’s Eat Cake can be interpreted in many ways, but our original intent was to subvert what it means to be a women’s lifestyle site by flipping the quote let them eat cake on its head. Instead of being judgmental, unsubstantial, and flaunting a nearly unattainable lifestyle, Let’s Eat Cake strives for the opposite.
Our goal is to make you laugh, to provide substance and knowledge where appropriate, to help you feel seen and accepted, and to offer content on a wide variety of topics from cocktail recipes and lifestyle travel to weird news and cake puns. (Plus a few automotive articles thrown in for good measure, because a lady does have to get around town, after all.)
So, come hang out. Stay a while. Let’s eat cake together. And, don’t drag us to the guillotine.
I've written or worked for a wide range of lifestyle sites and magazines, including Billboard, Nylon, Parade, Men's Journal, Us Weekly, Stuff, Blender, Beachbody, Alternative Press, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and more. See more on my LinkedIn.
On the baking side of things, I've run my own baking company and competed on Cupcake Wars, so hit me up with your baking questions! I respond fastest on Instagram where you can find me @letseatcakeblog
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