In Ancien Regime France, what were the states?  

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In the Ancien Régime in France before the French Revolution, the populace was divided into three "estates". The monarchy was considered its own category, related to the second estate but not identical to it. These three were:

  1. First Estate: The first estate were the Roman Catholic clergy. These included bishops, priests, monks, and nuns. This was divided hierarchically into "higher" and "lower" clergy, with the higher clergy including bishops and abbots who normally were required to be members of the nobility, or second estate.
  2. Second Estate: This was divided into the noblesse d'épée ("nobility of the sword") and noblesse de robe ("nobility of the robe"). The noblesse d'épée was the old hereditary nobility and the noblesse de robe the newer nobility who often earned their titles through positions in the judiciary or civil service. Members of the nobility were exempt from many forms of taxation.
  3. Third Estate: The rest of the population consisted of the third estate, or commoners.
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