The Old Regime The Old Regime was the political and social system of France before the year 1789 In the 1780s half of the government’s revenue was being used to pay war debt and another quarter for the army. Due to this need for money King Louis XVI called the Estate General in hopes of increasing taxes on French nobility. In the Old Regime there were three political classes (also called Estates). The first estate was the clergy, the second was the nobles and the third was everybody else (peasants.)
The Third Estate The three estates were the three large social classes of France About 97% of the people belonged to the Third Estate The three groups that made up this estate were: The Bourgeoisie: the middle class (bankers, factory owners, merchants, professionals, and skilled artisans). They were often well educated and felt that their wealth entitled them to a greater degree of social status and political power. The Workers: the second and poorest group within the Third Estate (trades people, apprentices, laborers, and domestic servants). Paid low wages and frequently out of work, they often went hungry. The Peasants: 80% of France’s 26 million people—they had to pay about half their income in dues to nobles, tithes to the Church, and taxes to the king’s agents. Peasants resented the clergy and the nobles for the privileges and special treatment. The heavily taxed and disconnected Third Estate was ready for change.
Why the Third Estate was dissatisfied with the Old Regime The Third Estate was dissatisfied the Old Regime because they were unfairly represented in the Estate General The Third Estate’s voice in the Estate General was very stifled and the Second and First Estates were both against the Third. The Third Estate was heavily taxed unlike the other two social classes
The Great Fear A wave of senseless panic that rolled throughout France due to wild rumors that nobles were hiring outlaws to terrorize the peasants. Peasants soon became outlaws themselves—armed with pitchforks and other farm tools, they broke into nobles’ manor houses and destroyed the old legal papers that bound them to pay feudal dues. In October 1789, thousands of Parisian women rioted over the rising price of bread and marched on Versailles brandishing knives, axes, and other weapons and demanding that the National Assembly take action to provide bread.