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Describe the privileges of the First & Second Estates in France in the 1780's (30)

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Introduction

a) Describe the privileges of the First & Second Estates in France in the 1780's (30) Under the Ancien R�gime, the French people were divided, according to their status, into 'estates' or social groups. These groups were very unequal in size and power. It is difficult to give exact figures for this period, but it is estimated that the First Estate, the clergy, had around 170,000 members, the Second Estate, the nobility, had 300,000-400,000 members, while the remaining Third Estate made up the rest of the population. Louis XVI was an absolute monarch and under his regime, the people of France had to pay taxes, which went towards the army, the public officials and the luxurious life that the royal family led at the Palace of Versailles. Even though the Third Estate was the poorest overall, the unfair Ancien R�gime meant that the huge burden of taxes fell mainly upon them. Both the First and Second Estates had huge privileges which allowed them to lead a much more carefree life than those in the Third Estate. ...read more.

Middle

For example, members of the First Estate could only be prosecuted in their own, church courts (rather than the king's courts). The punishments in these were often less harsh than in the King's courts, for example there was no death penalty. Members of the First Estate also could not be asked to perform military service, to house troops or to provide money for the support of royal troops. It was often peasants that would perform military service, which made it extremely difficult for their families to cope in wartime. Being a member of the First Estate however, made you exempt from such hardships as these. The First and Second Estates were also exempt from the corv�e, a labour tax where men had to work to mend the roads. The Second Estate shared some of these privileges and also had privileges of their own. Like the First Estate, nobles were exempt from the taille, which proved to be a great hardship for many members of the third estate. Although not officially exempt, the First and Second Estates managed to pay less than they should have done in other taxes, such as the capitation and the vingti�me (introduced in 1749). ...read more.

Conclusion

to operate mills, ovens and winepresses. Again, the Second Estate was exempt from the forced labour on the roads (the corv�e). Noblemen shared honorific privileges, such as the right to wear a sword, to display a coat of arms or to take precedence at public ceremonies. Although these privileges did not make the nobility any richer, they helped reinforce their belief in a natural superiority and it was these that separated the nobility from the richer members of the Third Estate (such as the doctors, lawyers and merchants). Although they did not have a separate court of law, the nobility did receive special treatment in the law courts, such as the right to be beheaded rather than hanged if found guilty of a capital offence. The Third Estate was subjected to a slow and painful death, whilst the nobility were entitled to a more respectful, quick death, which again reinforced the importance of the separate Estates. Therefore, the lives of the First and Second Estates were greatly improved by the privileges given to them under the Ancien R�gime, not just the financial privileges which allowed them to lead generally luxurious lifestyles, but also the honorific privileges, which isolated them from the richer members of the Third Estate. Natalie El kheir ...read more.

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