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"The purpose of this blog is to generate discussions about historical issues. Students, enthusiasts, and friends are all welcome to join by reading and participating with comments. I hope to generate interest in history and offer help to the perplexed." Caleb Johnson

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Three Estates Pt. 1

During the Middle Ages, France was the centre of the continent. It far surpassed its neighbors in population, culture, strength of arms, and power. Its cities held the tallest cathedrals, its kings and nobles lead most of the crusades, and its clerics were second only to the Italians in ecclesiastical matters. Back then, French society was divided into what we now call the Three Estates.

A knight and lady
The first Estate was the nobility, or Chevaliers (knights). They owned most of the land in France and all the revenues thereof went to their benefit. They were the ones who answered the king's call to war, though often they rebelled against him. Their castles dominated the landscape, except for the towns which defiantly maintained their autonomy. In the south of France, ideas about courtly love, poetry, and manners sprang up. These ideas came together to become what we now call chivalry. However, chivalry became more of an idyllic, rather than a practical, way of life. Vanity, licentiousness, avarice and vice dominated the First Estate. The lofty code of chivalry was all right to display at tournaments when everyone was looking, but for the everyday, it was considered too inconvenient.

The First Estate, while touting their chivalry and way of life, often oppressed the peasantry. With no representation, education, or means of communication, the peasantry was easily isolated and subjugated. In this way the First Estate lost the faith of the people of France.  Though the First Estate was able to keep their hold on society for a long time, that time was soon to come to an end.

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