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Let Them Eat Cake: Gender, Nationalism and Tyranny in Revolutionary France and Russia

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:28 authored by Eldred-Grigg, Hugh

The origin of the phrase ‘let them eat cake’ is obscure. Conversely, it is widely understood that the woman whose name is most associated with the phrase, Marie Antoinette, the last pre-revolutionary Queen of France, never said it. But despite its lack of veracity the phrase demonstrates neatly the degree of disdain and anger directed at the Queen to the point where hatred becomes a useful term. This hatred was not unique to Marie Antoinette. While there is no phrase to highlight her role in the public eye, Alexandra Fedorovna, the last Czarina of Russia, was the focus of parallel disdain. Despite the timescale their situations are strikingly similar. The French and Russian revolutions form the backdrop for the close of these two women’s lives. Political historians de-emphasise the role of individual actors in shaping events, but the events of individual lives – or more precisely, the way in which those events are interpreted in the public sphere – can provide an insight into the impersonal events that constitute noteworthy targets of analysis. This study identifies a common dynamic that explains the reason why Marie Antoinette and Alexandra Fedorovna were both the target of such intense hatred during the revolutions that overthrew the systems they were part of and contributed collectively and individually to the shaping of the modern world.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Political Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Johansson, Jon