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The Estates General and the Tennis Court Oath

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years, 3 months ago

Week 23 Emergence of Industrial Society IDs

Maggie Walston


Tennis Anyone?


Estates General


  • French Legislative Assembly of the different classes of French subjects.
  • Met irregularly between 1302 and 1789.
  • Consisted if the delegates of 3 groups called estates. The first estate was the clergy, the second the nobility, and the thrid the common people.
  • Came into being as French Kings began to invite leaders from each of the three estates to meet and discuss financial matters.
  • Never won the power to make laws, nor did it ever establish itself permanently.
  • Was summoned repeatedly in the late 1500's, during the Wars of Religion. King Henry IV, who ruler from 1589 to 1610, never called the Estates. The Estates met only onve under his son Louis XIII in 1614. The Estates was not called again until May 1789, before the start of the French Revolution, because the government was almost bankrupt, and King Louis XVI could borrow more money or raise taxes only by calling a meeting of the Estates General.


A meeting of the Estates General in 1789


Tennis Court Oath


  • Pledge signed by 576 out of 577 members of France's Third Estate (who called themselves the National Assembly at the time) during the Estates General of June 20, 1789 in a tennis court near the Palace of Versailles.
  • Jacques Necker, finance minister to King Louis XVI, had proposed that the King hold a Royal Session in an attempt to bring the divided Estates back together.
  • The members of the Assembly found themselves locked out of their meeting room so they met in an indoor tennis court and swore that they would not disband until they had written a constitution for France.
  • Was both a revolutionary act, and an assertion that political authority derived from the people and their representatives rather than from the monarch.


A painting of the Tennis Court Oath by Jacques-Louis David


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