Class System in Paris


The Three Classes in Paris during the French Revolution

The French Revolution had many effects on the class system of Paris. Before the revolution even started, Paris had a class system already in place. This consisted of the First Estate which were clergy, Second Estate were the nobles, and the Third Estate was everyone else mostly consisting of the working class and poor. The French Revolution was caused by the social tension between these three classes.

The First Estate was the top class. Consisting of the clergy, this was the group who made all the laws. Even within this class there were two levels, the lower and upper clergy. The upper class were the bishops and abbots while the lower class were the priests. A perk of being in the First Estate was your land was tax free. This did not go over well with the Third Estate who had to pay extra in taxes to make up for the “10-15% of all the land in France” that was not being paid by the upper classes (Kreis). The First Estate also had the job of censoring books, registering births, marriages, and deaths, were the moral police, and ran the schools and hospitals. After the top class of the First Estate came the Second Estate.

The Second Estate consisted of the nobles who held the highest position in churches, military, and the government. Many of these people owned land which peasants from the Third Estate would live on paying rent. Very similar to the First Estate, there were two levels within this estate. The upper class were known as the Nobility of the Sword. These were the people who served the King. Their family history could be tracked down for generations in France. The lower class were the Nobility of Robe. These people were again very similar to the Nobility of the Sword.

The last social class in Paris during the French Revolution was the Third Estate. This consisted of the working class and peasants. Some people in the working class had money because they were doctors or lawyers, though their wealth did not come with status that was given to those in the First and Second estate. This shows that in Paris it did not matter the amount of money one had. The way you were considered to be of upper class was all based on the status of your Estate.

Storming of Bastille

Social tension was between the First and Second Estate against the Third Estate. Since “together, these two Estates accounted for approximately 500,000 individuals,” and the Third Estate had “about 25 million people,” it is no wonder the groups argued (Kreis). With having such a smaller ratio of people making all the rules, the Third Estate caused the rebellions which in turn were the main cause of the French Revolution. It was the lower class fighting to have equal rights and opportunities that the First and Second Estate had. The Storming of Bastille on July 14,1789 was the first time where the three estates fought against each other. It was a revolution of social tension.

-Kelly Schwemmer

Kreis, Steven. “Lecture 11: The Origins of the French Revolution.” Lecture 11: The Origins of the French Revolution. N.p., 30 Oct. 2006. Web. 28 Oct. 2013.


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