The governmental machines of the period were defective because nearly all of them were operated, to varying extents, by men who were not professional administrators: many of them depended on the help of unofficial or semi-official bodies of various kinds. In Britain there can be seen, in a rather different form, a tendency for functions of great importance to the government to be entrusted, faute de mieux, to amateur administrators. In eastern and central Europe the position was quite different. In the great states of the west, England, France or Spain, it was possible to claim, with varying degrees of truth, that a constitution existed. The French administrative system occupied a position midway between the centralization seen in Prussia under Frederick William I and Frederick II and the decentralized parliamentary system of Britain. In Prussia noble families on the greatest scale, owning vast estates and great wealth, had never existed.