There is no evidence that Marie Antoinette, the 18th century queen of France, once said, “I wasn’t raised, I was built.” But a fictionalized account of her certainly did.
“Let them eat cake” was once erroneously attributed to Antoinette, and the “built” quote may be continuing that trend. We noticed a number of online posts claiming that she had said the following:
"I wasn’t raised, I was built." —Marie-Antoinette. #OTD in 1770, Louis, the French dauphin, married Marie Antoinette, daughter of Austrian Archduchess Maria Theresa & Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. In 1774, w/the death of King Louis XV, they were crowned king & queen of France. pic.twitter.com/TcYUj9E0mp
— Vintage/Anchor Books (@VintageAnchor) May 16, 2018
We looked through “Marie Antoinette: The Journey” by Antonia Fraser, the book referenced by Vintage/Anchor Book’s tweet above, and found no evidence of the quote being used.
A fictional version of Antoinette, however, quoted her making the comment. It was in the play “Marie Antoinette” by David Adjmi in a performance at the Yale Repertory Theater, a co-production with American Repertory Theater, in 2012.
In the play, as Antoinette’s hair is being shaved during her imprisonment, she lectures a guard (emphasis ours): “You can’t understand it, but I was born to be a queen. It wasn’t my choosing. I was born into it. And I wasn’t raised, I was built: I was built to be this thing; and now they’re killing me for it — but you’d be the same. You’d make the same choices I did.”
Fake quote time! This one pops up now and then. This quote attributed to Marie Antoinette WAS said by Marie Antoinette…. in a play written by David Adjmi. It was not uttered by the real Marie Antoinette. pic.twitter.com/G5qzOxQHeY
— Inviting History (@invitinghistory) March 24, 2022
We reached out to Adjmi to learn more about his sources and inspiration behind this line, and will update this post if we hear back. For now, we have rated this as “Unproven.”
“Did Marie-Antoinette Really Say “Let Them Eat Cake”?” Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/story/did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake. Accessed 25 Mar. 2022.
Fraser, Antonia. “Marie Antoinette: The Journey.” United States, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2002. https://www.google.com/books/edition/Marie_Antoinette/qX8zwbVwz0cC?hl=en&gbpv=0. Accessed 25 Mar. 2022.
Isherwood, Charles. “Moaning All the Way to the Guillotine.” The New York Times, 12 Nov. 2012. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/theater/reviews/david-adjmis-marie-antoinette-at-yale-repertory-theater.html. Accessed 25 Mar. 2022.