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Unit 3: Revolutions and Reaction

Lesson B: Out with the Old World and in with the New

Activity 1: The Three Estates

Like schools today, France in the 18th century also had different social groups, called social classes. The kings, through their claim of divine right, ruled as absolute monarchs. They had control over many things, including foreign policy and taxes. These policies supported a traditional social order, known in France as the Ancien Régime or the Old Regime. In this system, there were three social classes, or estates. The first estate was the clergy; the second estate included the nobles; and the third estate was made up of the remaining middle and lower classes. The Three Estates in the Ancien Régime were each represented in the French government in the Estates General, but the monarchy had the final say on when this legislative body would meet. In this activity, you will analyze these three social classes and determine their treatment under the Old Regime.


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Use information from the presentation to describe how the Third Estate might feel about the privileged First and Second Estates. Predict what you think might happen in the future to the Estates. Select the link to review the table of information on the First, Second, and Third Estates.