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 Let Them Eat Cake 
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Marija Vera wrote:
I was naively convinced that it is quite well known today, at least in some circles, that this was just a rumor without any evidence, which still spread some less informed tourists guides.

I bought some popular historical magazine (at least with a purpose to be) recently, that comes in 100 numbers and covers as many important historical figures or “people who changed the world”. I think it is originally from Greece, translated and published in my country. The one I bought to cut the boring hours at my summer job was about Napoleon. At first I was very disappointed with the style, as if it was written for children from 5 – 8 (which wasn’t the purpose). Marie Antoinette was mentioned as a woman who wasn’t as guilty as thought for ruining the French finances but then I stumbled upon one other passage with this famous sentence which she again said after she got the news of French people starving. But that wasn’t all, beside several other mistakes about various things, she had countless affairs and Louis XVI too!! Now, I don’t think anyone could buy that!

The problem with this, which made me so mad, is that people usually buy this kind of literature to have an easy insight in history, without going deeper into it, and take most of these information for granted. People without much interest in Marie Antoinette would easily believe all these rumors and here is how the story spreads.
I don’t know whether I should write to them or not but it makes me glad for Coppola and her movie which at least showed this sentence as false to general public.


Ludy wrote:
I was once against appalled to notice how hard this sentence stings to Marie-Atoinette, in spite of all the evidence produced proving that she never stated it.

Today I bought a Russian magazine - I am currently pursuing my studies in Moscow- entitled `100 people that changed the course of History`, it was dedicated to our queen. Although the magazine was quite well documented, the sentence was written on the very first page. I felt both shocked an concerned, for the magazine seems to target an audience that is not especially informed about Marie-Antoinette and will thus take the information given as read - I have not read yet how the Fersen affair was dealt with ...

I am contemplating wrtiting to the redaction to get this mistake fixed. I would although be an occasion to practice my writing style in Russian...


The same problem and the same dilemma although I didnt write in the end, because of a lack of time, even I should have. If you write to them I'd be interested to know their reply.

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Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:19 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Here's a curious, and slightly more believable, variant on the tale:

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There is a story about Marie Antoinette who, at the beginning of the French revolution, on being informed of a famine in the neighborhood of the Tyrol and of the death by starvation of some of the peasants there, remarked, "I would rather eat croutons than starve !" "Croutons," translated in English as pie-crust, was understood by the French nobles to mean pastry, and, so, they surrounded her and giggled at the ridiculous conceit. However, they, in their ignorance, were not aware of what the queen alluded to. What she meant by croutons was the covering made of flour and water, and sawdust, with which these peasants cooked their meat, by enclosing it in this rolled dough, either by baking, or on embers. This baked dough, called croutons, is fed to the pigs, who seem to digest it thoroughly, sawdust included. Hence, the Queen meant, "she would rather eat 'pig-food' than starve !"

http://books.google.com/books?id=rNYAAA ... ry&f=false

Honestly, I doubt it's anymore accurate, but it does make a tad more sense, as a simple misunderstanding.

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Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:44 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Jim, that is a stunning find, but doen't it contradict the fact that the phrase can be found in Rousseau's Confessions ? Unless both stories were later entwined, as it sometimes happen, it seems that in anyway this story takes it source earlier than MA's lifetime.

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Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:03 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
As I said, I doubt it's accurate. It may be more interesting as an attempt by someone to explain the comment, whether or not they themselves thought it was real.

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Thu Oct 29, 2009 2:22 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I remember reading a short text in 6th grade about MA. It stated that she did say "let them eat cake!". it makes me sad to think that most people actually believe that she did indeed say that, and most of them will live knowing no different.

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Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:00 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
You must realize one thing about this Queen, the essential thing....she is an example, the example, of libel and heresay. Anything said or written about Marie Antoinette must be checked and cross referenced, preferably with memoir or first hand sources. That must be your point of departure. As a foreign princess brought to France from a country which had always been its chief rival, she was used and abused basically from the start to the finish by different cliques or factions.

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Mon Dec 14, 2009 2:50 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Very true baron, very true.

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Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:42 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
baron de batz wrote:
You must realize one thing about this Queen, the essential thing....she is an example, the example, of libel and heresay. Anything said or written about Marie Antoinette must be checked and cross referenced, preferably with memoir or first hand sources. That must be your point of departure. As a foreign princess brought to France from a country which had always been its chief rival, she was used and abused basically from the start to the finish by different cliques or factions.


Agreed. It was obviously hard on the French people to be asked to follow, love, and (gasp) respect an Austrian!

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Tue Dec 15, 2009 9:46 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I suspect this statement is a relatively modern invention from the early Victorian period, long after M.A. and the Revolution. I can find no contemporary source for the statement, even by her enemies. It doesn't appear in literature until the 1800s.

It has been falsely and deliberately attributed to M.A. as a means of demonstrating her imaginary indifference or ignorance of the poor. As I've said in another post, people are intrigued with the theme of poor vs. rich in the Revolution. M.A. has been made the example of this conflict. As a whole, her negative reputation stubbornly persists because people love the drama of this image: the extravagant and haughty Queen brought low by the oppressed masses. They don't really care if it's accurate; it appeals to their imagination and so they cling to it at truth's expense.

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Sat Feb 06, 2010 9:29 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I think Voltaire mentions in his writings of a "princess" who uttered, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche." I think some people think that he is writing about Louis XIV's consort, Maria-Theresa, although I guess an Archduchess can be equated with a princess.

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Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:48 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I believe Louis XVIII's memoirs have some mention of this quote, who attributes it to Louis XIV's Spanish wife.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/G ... ur/2*.html

"We had a pie and some claret, but we had forgotten bread; and whilst we ate the crust with the pie, we thought of Queen Maria Theresa, who hearing one day the poor people pitied for being in want of bread, replied, "But, dear me, why do they not eat pie-crust?"

There is also some suggestion that it may have been uttered in the 1750s by Madame Sophie and Madame Victoire, when the Dauphin Louis (Louis XVI's father) wanted to go to Paris to give alms to those suffering from famine.

That is unlikely though, as the quote is present is Rousseau's Confessions as Fleur stated. So if anyone uttered it, the Spanish Maria-Theresa is the most likely.

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Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:53 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Yes, the phrase existed before M.A.'s time, but I've found no reference for it in association with her until long after her death.

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Mon Feb 08, 2010 10:45 am
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
It seems a convenient phrase to try and make the Queen out to be someone who is indifferent to her subjects' suffering, whereas in reality her acts of charity were widespread and constant during her reign. When one sees just how much libel was spoken about her during her life, I don't give this particular catchphrase much attention. However it is interesting how people consider that this Royal couple could have alone alleviated the suffering and poverty of their people. It is clear that the wealth in France at that time was not necessarily in Versailles anymore, a number of immensely rich people lived in Paris by that time, like for example the Duc d'Orléans but also many from the banking and trading communities. Yet how many times are they accused of not sharing their wealth amongst the people, even if the Duc d'Orléans adopted a populist stance? The Royal family had a representative rôle, and therefore was expected to appear opulent and well dressed, and yet this was so often reproached.

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Last edited by baron de batz on Mon Feb 08, 2010 7:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Feb 08, 2010 2:17 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
I never thought of it this way, Baron, but you are so right! (as usual) Typical of the slander and ignorance towards the most Catholic King and Queen. France's problems were deeply ingrained and systemic and I think Louis did a lot for France during his reign. Too bad they did not value him in the end.... :|

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Mon Feb 08, 2010 4:36 pm
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Post Re: Let Them Eat Cake
Quote:
Baron de Batz wrote:

It is clear that the wealth in France at that time was not necessarily in Versailles anymore, a number of immensely rich people lived in Paris by that time, like for example the Duc d'Orléans but also many from the banking and trading communities. Yet how many times are they accused of not sharing their wealth amongst the people, even if the Duc d'Orléans adopted a populist stance? The Royal family had a representative rôle, and therefore was expected to appear opulent and well dressed, and yet this was so often reproached.


These are good points, Baron. I often read how the opulence of Versailles was responsible for France's financial crisis, when in fact the cost of the Royal establishment (including the Court and its various palaces and chateaux) was but a fraction of the government's annual expenditure. The real culprit was a string of disasterous wars (particularly Louis XV's) which cost France dearly and brought her nothing in the way of material gain.

Another point I'd like to make; the "poverty" of the French people has been exaggerated and taken out of context. It should be viewed in relation to the conditions in the rest of Europe at that time. The chief criticism (historically) seems to be that France was not Great Britian (economically or socially), but it should also be noted that neither was France: Spain, Austria, Russia or the Italian and German states; where conditions were much worse.

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"One grows accustomed to one's enemy, and by making it familiar one loses the desire to get rid of it...." Marquise de la Tour du Pin, in a letter to her friend Mme. de Duras.


Mon Feb 08, 2010 5:42 pm
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