The Estates, also known as the States (French: États, German: Landstände, Dutch: Staten), was the assembly of the representatives of the estates of the realm, the divisions of society in feudal times, called together for purposes of deliberation, legislation or taxation. A meeting of the estates that covered an entire kingdom was called an estates general.
The first estate was the clergy, the second the nobility and the third the commoners, although actual membership in the third estate varied from country to country. Bourgeoisie, peasants and people with no estate from birth were separated in Sweden and Finland as late as 1905.
Representation through estates was the norm in Europe until the advent of popular representation beginning with the French Revolution. The Estates General of France were convoked only twice between 1614 and 1789, both times during the Fronde (1648-53), and in neither case did they actually meet. At the final meeting of the Estates in 1789, they voted to join in a single National Assembly, generally seen as marking the start of the French Revolution. Estates continued to meet in Navarre until 1828, in Hungary until 1848, in Sweden until 1866, and in the Duchy of Mecklenburg until 1918.
In some countries, the parliament kept the same name when its feudal organization was replaced with a more modern kind of representation, like census or universal suffrage. In Sweden, the Riksdag of the Estates was replaced with the Riksdag in 1866.