claudie blakley as charlotte lucas in pride & prejudice (2005). she gives the famous 'i'm 27 years old i have no money and no prospects' speech

Pride & Prejudice/Prime Video

Turning 27 means you can perform Charlotte’s ‘Pride & Prejudice’ speech

'I’ve no money and no prospects. I’m already a burden to my parents.'


Michelle Jaworski

Internet Culture

Posted on May 27, 2023

Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth Bennet’s neighbor and close friend in Pride & Prejudice, might be more of a minor character in one of literature’s great romances. But, as played by Claudie Blakley in Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation, her big scene offers a window into what makes her tick and why she makes a particular choice about her life—and creates a rather memorable speech in the process. The speech, in which she says she’s “27 years old” with “no money and no prospects,” has become a relatable meme as well as an inspiration for custom birthday cakes.

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The ‘I’m 27 years old, I’ve no money and no prospects’ meme origin

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Charlotte’s iconic line reading arrives a little under halfway through Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) refused a marriage proposal from the odious Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander), who stands to inherit everything the Bennets own when her father, Mr. Bennet (Donald Sutherland), dies. And Elizabeth’s older sister Jane (Rosamund Pike) has set off to London to stay with her aunt and uncle after learning the Bingleys left Netherfield.

Spinning in contemplation in circles on a swing, Elizabeth stops when she sees Charlotte, who looks pleased when she tells her friend that Mr. Collins just proposed to her and they will soon be married. While it’s a little unclear how much time has passed between the two proposals in the film, Jane Austen’s prose noted, “The strangeness of Mr. Collins’s making two offers of marriage within three days was nothing compared to his being now accepted.”

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Elizabeth is initially confused about what Charlotte means before becoming horrified at the prospect of Charlotte marrying Mr. Collins. Not because of misguided jealousy about Mr. Collins (or marriage in general) or because Charlotte will inherit the Bennet family home one day. Rather, Elizabeth respects and cares deeply for her friend and thinks Charlotte deserves better than marrying a simpering man whose primary personality quirk revolves around sucking up to Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Dame Judi Dench).

Charlotte is much more pragmatic and pushes back at Elizabeth’s romanticism; she doesn’t see why she wouldn’t be happy marrying Mr. Collins.

“Not all of us can afford to be romantic,” Charlotte explains. “I’ve been offered a comfortable home and protection. There’s a lot to be thankful for.”

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When Elizabeth objects again, Charlotte launches into what’s seen as a now-iconic speech that spells out her mindset about exactly why she’s saying yes to Mr. Collins.

“I’m 27 years old,” Charlotte says. “I’ve no money and no prospects. I’m already a burden to my parents. And I’m frightened. So don’t judge me, Lizzie. Don’t you dare judge me!”

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Charlotte gets the last word, but fortunately, it’s not the end of their friendship. Sometime after Charlotte and Mr. Collins are married, Charlotte invites Elizabeth to stay with her, kicking off the tumultuous love story viewers are more than familiar with.

The ‘I’m 27 years old, I’ve no money and no prospects’ meme is highly relatable now

Austen’s book is set in Regency England, and Wright’s film takes place even earlier. What Charlotte is facing as a 27-year-old during that time isn’t great. She couldn’t vote. She wouldn’t have many job options, and even fewer as the daughter of a businessman with several children to care for and marry off who are younger than her. Charlotte is described in the book as being plain by her own mother (if you trust Mrs. Bennet’s version of events), which probably hurt her marriage prospects. And at 27, Charlotte is the same age as Anne Elliot, Austen’s heroine in Persuasion. (For a Regency comparison, albeit one written much later than Austen’s, look to Bridgerton’s Kate Sharma: At 26, she calls herself an old maid, and the ton sees her as a spinster.)

Simply, Charlotte said yes to Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal because, in her view, she probably would never get another offer of marriage. In her view, it’s a reasonable choice to make.

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Prospects aren’t quite as dire for 27-year-olds today. But Charlotte’s sentiment—that she’s getting older and feels like she’s lost and being bothersome to her loved ones—is something many people can relate to. 

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And while some tweets credit Austen for the line, her version of Charlotte never said anything of the sort. However, the source does come from someone with an Austen connection: While Deborah Moggach wrote the film’s screenplay, Emma Thompson—who previously adapted and starred in Sense & Sensibility—wrote the dialogue for this scene, according to Wright in the film’s DVD commentary.

The ‘I’m 27 years old, I’ve no money and no prospects’ memes on TikTok

But not everyone who loves quoting Charlotte Lucas’ most iconic cinematic line does it out of despair. For some, it’s something of a right of passage once you turn 27. Think of it as a version of those viral posts that say, “Today is the only day you can say this.” And others go as far as to commemorate the occasion. Literally.

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Thousands of videos featuring that audio clip from Pride & Prejudice have emerged over the past few years, many of which feature people getting cakes for their 27th birthdays that featured some form of Charlotte’s speech on it. TikToks featuring the hashtag #nomoneynoprospects have over 1.7 million views.

Some, like TikToker @rosedoorhome, went with a simplistic “no money, no prospects.”

“It’s my 27th birthday,” @rosedoorhome wrote in a 2021 video. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long.”

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@rosedoorhome I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this moment 😂 27 with no money, no protects #prideandprejudice #birthday #nomoneynoprospects ♬ Pride and Prejudice no money and no prospects – Amilia

One cake, as filmed by @daneeka801 earlier this year, shows an actual checklist of all the beats Charlotte hits.

@daneeka801 Us 96’ babies this year #birthday #birthdaygirl #27yearsold #27thbirthday #prideandprejudice #charlotte ##charlottelucas #fyp #fypシ #milennials #funny #nolies #aquarius ♬ original sound – Glenn_coco
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Some people might go for the full speech on a cake, minus a word or two, depending on how much space there is for the entire speech.

@cadescakes #nomoneynoprospects 💸🎂💔@juliadrinksagain #cadescakes #caketok #cakes #cake #cakedecorating ♬ Pride and Prejudice no money and no prospects – Amilia
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And some even gave viewers partial views of their licenses to show that when they made the video, that was the only day they could pull off Charlotte’s speech. But one TikToker might’ve had everyone else beat: Her last name just happened to be Burden.

@artbyburd Ask me how long I’ve been holding on to this audio #prideandprejudice #OscarsAtHome #venmospringbreak #SeeHerGreatness #late20s #27 #birthday #aries #ariesseason ♬ original sound – Glenn_coco

Even though our 27th birthdays might come and go, Charlotte’s pragmatism is eternal.

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*First Published: May 27, 2023, 7:27 am CDT
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