France was an absolute monarchy. Louis XIV (1643 – 1715) was the envy of all other rulers in Europe. During his reign he had centralized the government and had encouraged trade and manufacture. His undoing was the long list of over ambitious wars that he had participated in. His successors Louis XV (1715 – 74) and Louis XVI (1774 – 93) also participated in lengthy and costly conflicts. France had suffered defeat in the Seven Years War against Britain (1756 – 63). Her army in Europe was crushed by the Prussians. The involvement in the American Revolution was for revenge against Britain after the Seven Years War. A fatal weakness in the French absolute monarchy system, was its inability to produce strong monarchs. Louise XVI was not strong.

On the eve of revolution all sections of French society had reason to be unhappy:
•The nobles wanted power that was taken from them by the monarchy
•The bourgeoisie resented the privileges of the nobles
•The Bourgeoisie and the Peasants criticized the tax system

Ancien Regime refers to the old order in France; the social and governmental system that lasted until the Revolution. The Government order in France was an Absolute Monarchy. Due to the increasingly large powers of a monarch over society including: National System of Justice, Influenced the Catholic Church, The Right to decree Taxation and Leader of the military forces, the monarch has to be a string and stable person. Louis XVI was neither strong nor stable.

The population was divided into three estates. The Third Estate was made up of the bourgeoisie, wage earners and the peasantry. They were the majority of the population. The Third Estate was also known as the estate of the commoners. The Second Estate was for the nobility. They numbered 400 000 with most of them being of minor rank. The First Estate comprised the clergy. The Upper Clergy were very wealthy and powerful and therefore they related to the First Estate. The Lower Clergy related more to the Lower Estates. The First Estate numbered around 100 000.

The first two states enjoyed privileges over the Third Estate. Although they were the richest, they were exempt from taxes. They were also the only members in society who could hold positions of importance such as Officers in the army. This caused great discontent within the Third Estate.

There was great need for taxation reform in France before the Revolution. The inefficiency of only taxing the lower estate showed in the Government’s budgets. The Government was experiencing large debts and eventually went Bankrupt. This was made worse by the Nobles non-cooperation when it came to Taxation. The nobles were determined not to give up their tax concessions. This proved to be a great problem for Louis and his advisers. The peasants and bourgeoisie were also unhappy due to the large taxes that they had to pay.

Due to over ambitious wars and extravagant spending on courts, Louis XIV and Louis XV had been successful in helping to bankrupt France. Their extravagant spending on courts could be seen by the beauty and sheer size of Versailles. The cost of the wars was great in two ways. The French had suffered big defeats and therefore had lost men and supplies. They also had failed to gain any territory; in fact they often lost it. The worst war was the Seven Years War as this economically drained France and saw France lose most of her colonies to Britain.

The peasants had many grievances. One of the main grievances was the seigniorial system. This system allowed for greater income disparity in France and a real separation of classes. This often left peasants almost isolated compared to the rest of society. All peasants within France felt this at the time. The peasants were burdened with huge amounts of taxation that were nearly impossible for them to pay. This led to a rather discontented peasantry within France.

The French Monarchy was successful in running deficit budget after deficit budget. This was aided by large costs brought on from previous spending by Louis XV and Louis XIV. This did not stop Louis XVI from adding to the troubles. Instead of implementing tax reform Louis was insistent on not annoying the nobility. Therefore he had to borrow the differences in expenditure and revenue. These saws a constant