On June 8, 1783, Iceland’s Laki Volcano erupted. For eight months, the volcano spewed lava and poisonous gases devastating the local agriculture. As a result, nearly one fourth of the island’s population died from hunger. Not content with the damage already done, the volcanic ash formed a “dry fog” that, thanks to the winds, crept into Europe and landed on French soil provoking weather instability, withered crops, and freaked out citizens.
The poor grain harvest caused a shortage of the main staple, bread. Enraged mothers gathered in the market places of Paris to come up with a plan of action. Believing that the royal couple’s lavish and frivolous lifestyle was the reason for their hunger, the women decided to march to Versailles to gut its pantries and to demand that the King and Queen return to Paris. Four years later, Marie Antoinette was taken to the Place de la Révolution where she was beheaded in front of a jeering crowd.
Although Marie-Antoinette did flour her wigs while the French went without bread, she never said “qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let them eat cake).