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In pre-Revolutionary France, the representative assembly of the three estates or orders of the realm: the clergy and the nobility (both privileged minorities) as well as the Third Estate, which represented the majority of the people. Usually summoned by monarchs in times of crisis, the Estates General met at irregular intervals from the 14th century on; it was of limited effectiveness because the monarchy usually dealt with local Estates instead. The last meeting of the Estates General was at the start of the French Revolution in 1789, when the deputies of the Third Estate led in founding the National Assembly.
Variants of ESTATES GENERAL
Estates General or States General French États-Généraux.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Estates General, visit Britannica.com.
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