This is a glossary of the French Revolution. It generally does not explicate names of individual people or their political associations; those can be found in List of people associated with the French Revolution.

The terminology routinely used in discussing the French Revolution can be confusing, even daunting. The same political faction may be referred to by different historians (or by the same historian in different contexts) by different names. During much of the revolutionary period, the French used a newly invented calendar that fell into complete disuse after the revolutionary era. Different legislative bodies had rather similar names, not always translated uniformly into English. This article is intended as a central place to clarify these issues.

Three Estates Edit

The estates of the realm in ancien régime France were:

  • First Estate (Fr. Premier État) - The clergy, both high (generally sideing with the nobility, and it often was recruited amongst its younger sons) and low.
  • Second Estate (Fr. Second État) - The nobility. Technically, but not usually of much relevance, the Second Estate also included the Royal Family.
  • Third Estate (Fr. Tiers État) - Everyone not included in the First or Second Estate. At times this term refers specifically to the bourgeoisie, the middle class, but the Third Estate also included the sans-culottes, the laboring class. Also included in the Third Estate were lawyers, merchants, and government officials.
  • See also: Fourth Estate, a term with two relevant meanings: on the one hand, the generally unrepresented poor, nominally part of the Third Estate; on the other, the press, as a fourth powerful entity in addition to the three estates of the realm.

Social Classes Edit

  • Royalty - Usually refers to the royal House of Bourbon, but can also refer -technically less correct- to Napoleon Bonaparte and his imperial family after the Empire was established.
  • Nobility (Fr. noblesse) - Those with explicit noble title. These are traditionally divided into "noblesse d'epee" ("nobility of the sword") and "noblesse de la robe" ("nobility of the gown"), the magisterial class that administered royal justice and civil government.
  • Ci devant nobility - Literally "from before": nobility of the ancien régime (the Bourbon kingdom) after it had lost its titles and privileges.
  • Bourgeoisie - Roughly, the non-noble wealthy, typically merchants, investors, and professionals such as lawyers.
  • Sans-culottes - literally "those without breeches", the masses of Paris.


Constitutions Edit

  • Liberal monarchical constitution - Adopted October 6, 1789, accepted by the King July 14, 1790.
  • The Constitution of 1791 or Constitution of September 3, 1791 - Establishes a limited monarchy and the Legislative Assembly.
  • The Constitution of 1793, Constitution of June 24, 1793 (Fr. Acte constitutionnel du 24 juin 1793, or Montagnard Constitution (Fr. Constitution montagnarde) - Ratified, but never applied, due to the suspension of all ordinary legality October 10, 1793.
  • The Constitution of 1795, Constitution of August 22, 1795, Constitution of the Year III, or Constitution of 5 Fructidor - Establishes the Directory.
  • The Constitution of the Year VIII - Adopted December 24, 1799, establishes the Consulate.
  • The Constitution of the Year X - Establishes a revised Consulate, with Napoleon as First Consul for Life.
  • The Constitution of the Year XII - Establishes Bonaparte's First Empire.

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