Estates of the realm
under the ancien régime
, the Estates of the realm
were the three divisions of the Estates-General
. The First Estate
was the clergy
, the Second
, the Third
was the commoners. In theory, all commoners were part of the Third Estate. In practice, during the period where there was a division of France into estates, of the commoners only the bourgeoisie
were represented. The division of the French realm into estates was abolished during the first months of the French Revolution
The use of this term is not exclusive to France (although that is by far its most common usage). In Great Britain, an analogous division exists to this day, although with attenuated significance, between Lords Temporal, Lords Spiritual, and Commoners.
Note one contrast between the French and British systems: the lower clergy in France were part of the First Estate, but in Britain they are commoners.