The Provincial Estates

  • Roger Mettam
Part of the History in Depth book series (HD)


The pays d’états, the provinces in which the time-honoured representative Estates continued to meet regularly, were among the more efficiently administered areas of France, although ministerial control over them was more tenuous than elsewhere. As Colbert was unable to devise any more effective alternative local government for such distant and separatist regions, he was compelled to maintain and work with these assemblies, while dreaming that one day, in a more ideal world, he could abolish them. Among their principal disadvantages, the royal ministers could cite their extensive control and supervision of much routine administration in their province, their right to dispute the amount of tax they should pay to the king, and their extensive privileges which they guarded jealously. In their favour it had to be admitted that their orders were obeyed by the people with greater speed and goodwill than the direct royal agents had come to expect in the pays d’élections. In the pays d’états the highest authority was at least one which had been elected by the populace, whereas the officials who carried out the same tasks elsewhere were regarded as the creatures of the hated ministers in Paris. Thus resistance to royal commands came at a different, and higher, level in the pays d’états. Once the Estates were persuaded to implement a policy, then there was a good chance of its execution. The pays d’élections possessed no comparable forum in which the views of the province as a whole, and of its component social groups, could be clearly voiced and brought to the notice of the central government.


Central Government Extensive Control Principal Disadvantage Fiscal Burden Free Gift 
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© Roger Mettam 1977

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  • Roger Mettam

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