Estates of the realm

broad orders of social hierarchy

The Estates of the realm were the broad orders of social rank and hierarchy in Europe from the 6th century to the 17th century (up until the 18th century in the case of France under the Ancien Regime) that divided the population into a series of estates, although how many depended on the country and era. Often people who did not own any land were not included at all. Medieval parliaments were generally divided to match.

In pre-revolutionary France, Scotland, Catalonia and Portugal the three estates were

In Sweden and Russia, burghers (the urban merchant class) and rural commoners were split into separate estates, so there were four estates.

In Rhodesia a similar system was set up in 1961 with voter rolls A and B for people who owned property or had educational qualifications. This was mostly the 230,000 white people. Most of the 4 million black didnt qualify.[2]

Some people refer to journalism as the Fourth Estate.


  1. "Taxes and the Three Estates | History of Western Civilization II". Retrieved 2023-11-17.
  2. Thomas-Symonds, Nick (2023). Harold Wilson the winner. London: Weidenfield & Nicolson. p. 214. ISBN 9781474611961.