Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Let Them Eat Cake"


Marie-Antoinette never said any such thing, as I hope readers of this blog have discovered. One theory about the origins of the legend of the phrase "Let them eat cake" is that it is the misunderstanding of a passage from the memoirs of the Comte de Provence (Louis XVIII), the brother of Louis XVI. Provence and his wife escaped from Paris to Coblenz by post-chaise in June, 1791. They stopped to eat and had meager provisions. Provence makes the allusion to a remark made by the queen of Louis XIV, Maria Theresa of Spain, in this passage:
We had a pie and some claret, but we had forgotten bread; and whilst we ate the crust with the pie, we thought of Queen50 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?"
Pie-crust was often fed to the beggars, from the back doors of the patisseries. Marie-Antoinette, however, never made any such remark in regard to starving people. Instead, she gave generously to the poor. What she did say, which is rarely quoted, is this: "It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness."
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13 comments:

Elisa said...

I've read this quote attributed to Louis XIV's first wife. It's confusing when you have people with similar names! :)

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, you are correct, Elisa, it was Louis XIV's first wife who said it.

alaughland said...

Lives have been snuffed out and empires have fallen because of 'He said, she said'. The fall of the Romanovs is another example of how lies perptrated by schemeing family members and members of the intellegensia brought the rage of public opinion down upon their heads.

Margaret said...

The lies, calumny and slander that Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI still endure are horrible. The more I learn about them (based on your well referenced and carefully researched work) I am appalled at this continuation of injustices against them. It is really disgusting. If only people knew how very erroneous and biased their history education is!

It makes me wonder if at some point they will be declared saints. My goodness, after all they suffered they should be! How does that process begin? Would someone have to ask for their intercession and a documented miracle have to occur?

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Margaret. It is complicated but that is pretty much what has to happen.

Vara said...

It is not only the Romanovs and Bourbons who are slandered by liberal historians. One sees this also in ther treatment of the Hapsburgs, the Spanish Bourbons (and Franco), and the Italian rulers who opposed Garibaldi (including the Pope of Rome). In short, there is an anti-monarchist bias in American academe, and one has to get around that.

Don't forget that the peace after the deposition of Napoleon was made by an annointed king, Tsar Aleksandr Pavlovich, and it lasted for a hundred years. In addition, he restored the Bourbons to their throne (only to have the rebellious French throw them out again in favour of "Napoleon the Little").

What does one do about this preference for "democracy" in American academe? Any suggestions, Mary?

Vara

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Vara. I suppose writing and counteracting the false information is the best solution.

elena maria vidal said...

And prayer, as well.

Suzanne said...

In the book "Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know," the attribution for that quote is Rousseau, writing about an anonymous queen. The work was written years before Marie Antoinette rose to the throne -- when she was 10, I believe. This post on Yahoo questions also relays some interesting information about the expression:
http://ask.yahoo.com/20021122.html

Marie Antoinette gathered her children on Christmas morning to show them the presents that the various merchants had brought to the royal family to choose from. She told her children that the gifts were to be returned to the merchants and the money given to purchase food for the poor and starving of France.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Suzanne! Provence was most likely quoting Rousseau, unless the anecdote about Queen Maria Theresa was one that existed in the family.

Yes, sadly, the anecdote about Marie-Antoinette and her children and the Christmas presents is little known. I did mention it in "Trianon," however.

dianainvasion said...

Actually I would be VERY careful before accusing Marie-Therese of having said that. The infamous expression first appeared in Rousseau's "Confessions" published in 1769. He merely accuses a "Princess" of having said that. He mentionned no names. Some people assumed it was Marie-Therese because she was the last Queen of France before Marie Leczinska, but there is no evidence of that. In 1769 Marie-Therese was well dead and Rousseau never met her, so it's unlikely he was referring to her. Plus, she was a very devout and generous queen by all accounts.

elena maria vidal said...

I was merely quoting Louis XVIII, who said it was Queen Marie-Therese, so we can assume it was a tradition in the family. But you are right, if Queen Marie-Therese did say something like that, it was not a heartless or careless suggestion but an idea of how to feed the poor.

MelindaL said...

Thank you for writing this blog, I've enjoyed for a long time, it's very well written and researched and so nice to see the truth about King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette and the Revolution presented. It would be so nice to see both of them made saints some day, I do ask for the intercession of Louis XVI and he's been a wonderful intercessor although I don't think the Church would classify the answers I've received as miracles, but I certainly do!

Thank you for all your work!