"Let them eat cake!"(Phrase Origins)
The French is _Qu'ils mangent de la brioche_ (not _gateau_ as one might expect). And Queen Marie-Antoinette did *not* say this. (When famine struck Paris, she actually took an active role in relieving it.) Jean-Jacques Rousseau attributed the words to "a great princess" in book 6 of his _Confessions_. _Confessions_ was published posthumously, but book 6 was written 2 or 3 years before Marie-Antoinette arrived in France in 1770. John Wexler writes: "French law obliged bakers to sell certain standard varieties of loaf at fixed weights and prices. (It still does, which explains why the most expensive patisserie will sell you a baguette for the same price as a supermarket.) At the time when this quotation originated, the law also obliged the baker to sell a fancier loaf for the price of the cheap one when the cheap ones were all gone. This was to forestall the obvious trick of baking just a few standard loaves, so that one could make more profit by using the rest of the flour for price-unregulated loaves. So whoever it was who said _Qu'ils mangent de la brioche_, she (or he) was not being wholly flippant. The idea was that the bread shortage could be alleviated if the law was enforced against profiteering bakers. I have seen this explanation quoted in defence of Marie Antoinette. It seems a pity, after all that, if she didn't say it." Gregory Titelman, in _Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs & Sayings_ (1996), writes: "Zhu Muzhi [head of the official Chinese Human Rights Study Society in the People's Republic of China] traces it to an ancient Chinese emperor who, being told that his subjects didn't have enough rice to eat, replied, 'Why don't they eat meat?'"
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