A striking feature of French society before the Revolution was the absence of any real unity among the wealthy and privileged. The bourgeoisie envied and detested the nobility, which in its turn was seriously divided against itself. There were three main division of the nobility. The great Nobility, the Lesser Nobility and the nobility of the robe.
The great Nobility comprised about 1000 families who owned the largest and the wealthiest landed estates in France. They had been accorded privileges which placed them above all other classes in the state. The highest command in the army and Navy were reserved for them and they alone could represent France abroad as ambassadors. The most influential among them were the court Nobles at Versailles who strongly resisted all attempts to end their exemption from taxation and were implacably determined to maintain their privileges. From these were drawn the absentee landlords that is the nobles who left their landed estates in the hands of bailiffs and went to live at Versailles,Paris or other town centers.
The lesser nobility comprised about 99,000 families. Their country estates were only just sufficient to maintain them and they could not have afforded the luxuries of absenteeism and the life of Versailles even if the great nobility had been willing to receive them into their select society.like the bourgeoisie the lesser nobility had very little political power in the provinces, where the king’s officers, the intend-ants were all powerful. Moreover all their sons inherited noble titles and this led to the existence of more noble than could possibly live up to their grandiose pretensions. It is not surprising therefore that we find a number of supporters of the revolution in this class for they envied the greater nobility’s privileges and were frustrated by their own exclusion from the higher social and political life of the times.