Estates of Th Realm

Topics: Estates of the realm, French Revolution, Middle class Pages: 3 (931 words) Published: February 6, 2006
Estates of the realm

In France under the ancien régime, the Estates of the realm were the three divisions of the Estates-General. The First Estate was the clergy, The Second Estate was nobility, The Third Estate was the commoners. In theory, all commoners were part of the Third Estate. In practice, during the period where there was a division of France into estates, of the commoners only the bourgeoisie were represented. The division of the French realm into estates was abolished during the first months of the French Revolution. The use of this term is not exclusive to France (although that is by far its most common usage). In the United Kingdom, an analogous division exists to this day, although with attenuated significance, between Lords Temporal, Lords Spiritual, and Commons. Note one contrast between the French and British systems: the lower clergy in France were part of the First Estate, but in Britain they are commoners.

First Estate

In France of the ancien régime and the age of the French Revolution, the term First Estate (Fr. premier état) indicated the clergy; the Second Estate were the nobility, and the rest of the population constituted the Third Estate. From these terms came the name of the medieval French national assembly: the Estates-General (Fr. Etats-Généraux), the analogue to the British Parliament but with no constitutional tradition of vested powers: the French monarchy remained absolute. In principle, the responsibilities of the First Estate included "the registration of births, marriages and deaths; they collected the tithe (usually 10%); they censored books; served as moral police; operated schools and hospitals; and distributed relief to the poor. They also owned 10-15% of all the land in France. This land, of course, was all held tax-free." [1] {} The First Estate comprised the entire clergy, traditionally divided into "higher" and "lower" clergy. Although there was no formal...
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