Monday, December 24, 2012

The Three Estates


Before the revolution the French people were divided into 3 groups: the 1st estate consisted of the clergy, the second estate of the nobility and thethird estate of the bourgeoisie, urban workers, and peasants. Legally the first two estates enjoyed many privileges, particularly exemption from most taxation.
The first estate, the clergy, consisted of rich and poor.  There were very wealthy abbots, members of the aristocracy who lived in luxury off of wealthy church lands,  and poor parish priests, who lived much like the peasants.
The second estate, the nobility, inherited their titles and their wealth came from the land. Some members of the nobility had little money, but had all the privileges of noble rank. However, most enjoyed both privileges and wealth.
The third estate, the common people, was by far the largest group of people in France. Everyone who was not a member of the first or second estates was a member of the third. It included the wealthy merchants whose wealth rivaled that of the nobility, the doctors and lawyers, the shopkeepers, the urban poor, and the peasants who worked the land. Obviously, a very diverse group.

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