Let them eat cake!In fact that lethal phrase had been known for at least a century previously, when it was ascribed to the Spanish princess Marie-Thérèse, bride of Louis XIV, in a slightly different form: if there was no bread, let the people eat the crust (croûte) of the pâté. It was known to Rousseau in 1737. It was credited to one of the royal aunts, Madame Sophie, in 1751, when reacting to the news that her brother the Dauphin Louis Ferdinand had been pestered with cries of 'Bread, bread' on a visit to Paris. The Comtesse de Boigne, who as a child played at the Versailles of Marie Antoinette, attributed the saying to another aunt, Madame Victoire. But the most convincing proof of Marie Antoinette's innocence came from the memoirs of the Comte de Provence, published in 1825. No gallant guardian of his sister-in-law's reputation, he remarked that eating pâté en croûte always reminded him of the saying of his own ancestress, Queen Marie-Thérèse. It was, in short, a royal chestnut.
Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette: the journey (pbk, 2002), p.160-1.
Marie-Antoinette may never have uttered the notorious words, but oh what a delicious marketing concept!
In 2006 Ladurée, the French luxury pâtissier, scored a major coup by negotiated with Sofia Coppola to fill the visually sumptuous set of the film Marie-Antoinette with gloriously presented and suitably decadent gateaux and pastries. Cakes became chic, youthful, bright and faintly irresponsible. Marie-Antoinette, notes one marketing website, is "worth watching for the food styling alone". Quite true - though the costumes are marvellous as well!