Third Estate

The Third Estate was originally a collective term used to describe everybody in the kingdom of France who did not belong to the clergy (First Estate) or nobility (Second Estate). From 5 May 1789 it also referred to the deputies elected to represent this majority of the population at the Estates General. On 17 June 1789 these deputies, along with several members who had joined from the First Estate, declared themselves to be a National Assembly with a duty to write a constitution for the country. The duchess regularly uses the term 'the Third' between 1789 and 1791 not just to describe deputies originally from the Third Estate but also to signal a wider pro-Revolutionary public.





Appears in these Letters:


13 December: Pre-Revolutionary Political Tensions

This extract covers the first two paragraphs of the first surviving Letter from the duchess's notebook series. We are in the period known as the...


10 February: Pre-Revolutionary Violence

Although many of the Letters focus on Paris, they also show that the duchess made considerable efforts to stay informed about events elsewhere in the...

22 July: Revolutionary Paris in July 1789

The duchess reflects on events in the Revolution so far and the rising power of Paris's new municipal government. She castigates a...

8 August: The Duchess Rides Through the Great Fear

The duchess felt trapped in Paris following the Revolutionary events of July 1789. She decided to leave Paris for her provincial estates at Moreuil in...

14 October: A King Imprisoned? The October Days

On 5-6 October 1789, a Parisian crowd led by thousands of women marched out to demonstrate at Versailles and forced the royal family to relocate to...


15 April: The Riddle of Louis XVI

Although a staunch royalist, the duchess, like many nobles, feared that the king might be tempted to enter an alliance with influential members of the...

29 December: The Duchess Reflects

The duchess takes stock of the Revolution thus far, and considers what it has meant for her and for the country. Her decision to begin this review...


3 October: Life as an Émigré. Part 1

The duchess recounts her departure from France for Tournai in the Austrian Netherlands, which had become a rallying post for the expanding French...