Let them eat cake! Marie-Antoinette's slippers sell for €50,000

 

A pair of delicate striped green slippers worn by the last queen of pre-revolutionary France fetched €50,000 (£40,500) at auction in Paris.

Marie-Antoinette,  wife of Louis XVI, whose sartorial excesses rankled while France's population starved, is famously credited with saying "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" or "Let them eat cake" when asked what peasants who had no bread should do about their hunger.

It is widely understood that history has treated the French queen unfairly, and there is no record of her uttering those words. But her position in history as the woman whose delight in her wardrobe oustripped her compassion for the hungry stands firm.

The slippers were the most valuable item sold by Parisian auction house Drouot in a collection consisting of 350 treasures belonging to French royal families. They went to a telephone bidder for five times the price Drouot's expected them to fetch.

They had belonged to Marie-Antoinette's manservant Alexandre-Bernard Ju-Des-Retz, to whom she gave them as a gift in 1775, and who passed them onto his descendants.

Nearly 20 years after she gave the slippers away Marie-Antoinette died at the guillotine. Having had her hair cut off and her finery replaced with a plain white shift, she was driven through Paris in an open cart and beheaded at Place de la Revolution (now Concorde). Her last words are recorded as: "Pardon me sir, I meant not to do it."

Interest in the last French queen has been reignited in recent years. A film directed by Sofia Coppola, Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst in the title role, hit cinemas in 2006 charting the end of the queen's reign and the fall of Versailles palace.

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