“ancien regime (Fr.. old government, old order). The governmental and social structure which prevailed in Europe prior to the French Revolution of 1789. Its main characteristics are taken to have been an absolute or despotic monarchy, based on the Divine Right of Kings and the rigid division of society into three orders—the aristocracy, the Church, and the Third Estate.”
Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.