More notes at http://tanguay.info/learntracker
C O U R S E 
The French Revolution
Peter McPhee, The University of Melbourne
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
18th Century French Clergy and Nobility
Notes taken on July 23, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
18th century France was a society based on a medieval conception of three estates (orders):
1. clergy
duty was to pray and worship
2. nobility
duty was to fight and protect
3. commons
duty was to obey and work
the privileged orders were the clergy and nobility
1. clergy
140,000 people
0.5% of the total population
regular clergy
26,000 monks
55,000 nuns
secular clergy
40,000 priests
19,000 curates
job was to take care of the needs of secular society, hence their name
a privileged corporation
privileged comes from "private law", i.e. the church was self-governing
had tax exemptions on lands that it owned
made a regular voluntary gift called a "don gratuit"
drew a tithe from common French people
8%-12% of harvests went to upkeep of church
8% of France was in the hands of the church
in Paris it was higher, near 40%
social divisions
men from the nobility
dominated church in terms of power and wealth
cathedrals were commonly run by bishops
power went beyond spiritual power
in Strasbourg, Cardinal de Rohan, enjoyed 1000 times what a country curate would have earned in a year
spent a good part of the year at Versailles
incurred scorn of the "philosophes" such as Voltaire
in small villages such as Corbières, priests earned only 300 livres per year
not much more than an average peasant household
some of the great abbeys often were landholders and feudal lords in their own rights
if ordinary people in France received an education, it was at the hands of the church
during winter months when there wasn't much farm work that children went to school
a majority of boys and a quarter of girls were able to sign the marriage register when they married
education was in large part to educate people of the dangers of sin
purgatory and hell were terrible prospects that were placed in the minds of the faithful
the power of the church came not only from this threat, but also from the power demonstrated by the great ecclesiastical edifices that dominated so many towns and villages across the land of France
once the peasants went into the church, the message was not only in the words of the priests but also in the way the churches were decorated
this was a society in which the most important method of communication was the spoken word supported by visual representation
stained glass windows portrayed stories of the happy afterlife that awaited them if they obeyed properly, and the life of dread that awaited them if they were not duly obedient and observed the sacraments
church was also marked by regional contrasts, felt in the French revolution
characterized by a bocage landscape
essentially a scattered population
hamlets and farmsteads
most people lived outside of the village but came into the village on Sundays to hear the word of God and to see other people
parish priests were local people from respected families
people lived in the village itself
church was not needed to provide a center of communication as it did in western and northern France
church was not the social hub so much
church was losing some of its social authority
The Second Estate: Nobility
125,000 (0.5% of total population),
same as clergy
variety of forms of wealthy
owned 30% of land in France
has a range of taxation exemptions, pays some taxes but avoids the most onerous
the role was a preparation to fight for the faith and the king in times of need
exercised its power in physical demonstrations of ostentation, authority, and intimidation across the landscape
two kinds of nobles
nobless d'épée
"nobles of the sword"
traced their noble heritage back many generations
noblesse de robe
"nobles of the robe"
through devotion and money were able to become nobles
nobles spent most of their time in royal courts
to stay in a small village would be a sentence of boredom
where the clergy has a reciprocal role (commoners were learning how to save their souls in return for their work and obedience), this was not so evident with the nobility who seemed to be more of an "absent extracting presence", a one way relationship
this tension was exacerbated by the fact that the military had been gradually concentrated in the state over the past decades and centuries, whereas the great noble families of France no longer have private armies
the question arose then: if the task of protecting the country rests now with the king, what is the purpose of the nobility and how does it justify the privileges which it enjoys?