The Old Regime Essay Research Paper The

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The Old Regime Essay, Research Paper The Old Regime was a period of time often considered by many to be representative of a crashed society. Under the Old Regime in France, the king was the absolute monarch. King Louis XIV had centralized power in the royal bureaucracy, the government departments that took care of his policies. King Louis’ reign in France played a significant role in its history and economy. He was a king to all during the most important events of the time, but he was also a financial king to the rich because he created a tax system that only benefited those who were wealthy. During the time of the Old Regime, society was broken down into three orders or classes, known traditionally as estates. The most important class of the three consisted of the

rebellious Nobility of the Second Estate which contained about 400,000 individuals who held all the public offices in the kingdom.1 The first two estates numbered the least but held the most influence in the whole kingdom. Most of the King’s ministers of state were of Noble birth, and even the highest order of the First Estate, the Clergy, was filled with the younger sons of Noble families.2 Like the First Estate, the Second Estate paid hardly any taxes and generally consisted of the richest members of society. The First and Second Estates were grouped together because they had similar political beliefs. The Third Estate strongly resented the advantages of the first two estates. The first two estates were the richest of the three estates. The First Estate consisted of the

Clergy, or the Church. The First Estate owned nearly ten percent of all the land in France. This estate paid no taxes, but to support church activities such as running schools and caring for the poor, it collected a tithe, or a tax on income.3 In addition, this estate was made up of the Nobles who lived luxurious lives in major French cities such as Versailles and Paris. The First Estate perfectly illustrates the amount of power and wealth possessed by the Church during a time when Church and State were not separated. The Second Estate in French life was mainly comprised of the Nobility. This class, generally characterized by the richest members of society, enjoyed extensive rights and privileges, great land, and much wealth. The Nobles accumulated their wealth by collecting

taxes, rents, and dues for the use of their farms or estates. Noblemen traditionally lived by the values of loyalty, courage, refined manners, and service to the King.4 However, while these aristocrats still claimed the privileges of their estate, many had forgotten their duties and values.5 This estate shows how lopsided society was; most members of the Second Estate weren’t even rich, but were born into a Noble family and were therefore considered Nobility. The Third Estate consisted of French citizens who weren’t classified as either Clergy or Nobility. Since the first two estates were exempt from taxes, the Third Estate had to provide almost all of the country’s income. Yet the Third Estate, easily the largest since it encompassed every Frenchman who was neither an

aristocrat nor a clergyman, was the least influential of the estates. In general, the Third Estate was composed of three groups: the Peasants, the Middle Class, and the Urban Workers. Peasants mainly led the lives of farmers. In contrast, the Middle Class was composed of the most important people in society. However, the Middle Class often worried about its social status, for it wasn’t socially recognized because it was part of the Third Estate. The Urban Workers, on the other hand, held much weight in society before and during the Revolution. Their anger at low wages and shortages of bread and other staple foods often resulted in mob violence during the Revolution.6 While the first two orders enjoyed many advantages, the commoners of the Third Estate had none. Barred by law