Estates General (France)

In France under the Ancien Régime, the Estates General (French: États généraux [eta ʒeneʁo]) or States-General was a legislative and consultative assembly of the different classes (or estates) of French subjects. It had a separate assembly for each of the three estates (clergy, nobility and commoners), which were called and dismissed by the king. It had no true power in its own right as, unlike the English parliament, it was not required to approve royal taxation or legislation.[1] It served as an advisory body to the king, primarily by presenting petitions from the various estates and consulting on fiscal policy.[2]

Opening of the Estates General on May 5, 1789 in the Grands Salles des Menus-Plaisirs in Versailles.

The Estates General met intermittently until 1614 and only once afterward, in 1789, but was not definitively dissolved until after the French Revolution.[2] It was distinct from the provincial parlements (the most powerful of which was the Parliament of Paris), which started as appellate courts but later used their powers to decide whether to publish laws to claim a legislative role.

Although much more limited, the Estates General was similar to such European institutions, generally known as the Estates, such as the States General of the Netherlands, the Parliament of England, the Estates of Parliament of Scotland, the Cortes of Portugal or Spain, the Imperial Diet ("Reichstag") of the Holy Roman Empire or Germanic Empire, the Diets (German: Landtage) of the "Lands", and the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates.