Alternative History
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Charte constitutionnelle du 4 juin 1814. Page 1 - Archives Nationales - AE-I-29.jpg

The French Charter of 1814 was a constitutional text granted by King Louis XVII of France shortly after the Bourbon Restoration, in form of royal charter. The Congress of Vienna demanded that Louis bring in a constitution of some form before he was restored. King Louis XVII willingly presented a new liberal charterwas ratified on 1814, which striped the French monarchy of much of its authority, initiating a transfer of power to the Parliament. And is is the constitution of the Kingdom of France, applying equally in the Realm of the French: France Proper, the Kingdom of Navarre and Béarn, and the Kingdom of Corsica.

The main principle of the Constitutional Charter was to limit the King's power. It creates a comparatively weak constitutional monarch who is dependent on Ministers for advice and Parliament to draft and pass legislation. And provided for a constitutional monarchy based jointly on the Spanish and British models. Thus it served as the constitution of France from 1814 to 1822, from 1834 to 1836 and from 1842 until the modern day.

Outline

Nature of the charter

The 1814 Constitutional Charter provided France a form of constitutional monarchy based on the British and Spanish Models. It was inspired by the precedents of the French constitutions of 1791, the Spanish Constitution of 1812 and English constitutional principles. France was established as a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature. The Constitution guaranteed the freedoms of expression, education, religion and of the press. Though liberal in many respects, the constitution also placed the Catholic Church in a privileged position. Despite mandating the separation of Church and State, the Church was given a favoured position while maintaining its independence.

The King of France is the nominal chief executive, but is bound by convention to act on the advice of the ministers, with the King having nominal role in governmental affairs, and his executive authority and governmental power being entrusted to various advisers and counsel under the control of the Prime Minister. But also only curtailed the powers of the king significantly, but not severely, it eventually evolved into a system largely comparable to the British Government, with the powers of the monarchy roughly corresponding to those of the British Monarchy.

Provisions

Preamble

  • The Introduction (Articles 1-3) declared that France was "one and indivisible", and mandated the use of French in the armed forces and other public institutions. It also acknowledged Navarre and Corsica as an "inseparable part of the French state", while acknowledging its special legislative and political status. It defined the Realm of the French, constituted by the Kingdom of France, the Kingdom of Navarre, the Kingdom of Corsica, and the Duchy of Lorraine.
  • Chapter One (Articles 4-8) Article 4 stipulates that France is a federal state composed of Departments, Provinces, and Communes, the first group constituting the subdivisions of the second, and the second group constituting the subdivisions of the last. Article 6 establishes that Departments are administered by an elected body called a departmental council. While Article 7 reestablishes the Provincial Parlements, and gives governance of the provinces to them. Article 8 gives the responsibilities of communities to the Commune Councils.

Public law of the French

  • Chapter Two (Articles 8-25) concerned the "rights and obligations" of French citizens. The opening twenty four articles of the Charter are analogous to a "Bill of Rights". They contained such measures as a declaration of equality before the law, due process rights, religious toleration, freedom of the press, protection of private property, and abolition of conscription. It affirmed national sovereignty, separation of powers, freedom of the press, free enterprise, abolished corporate privileges (fueros), and established a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. It was one of the first constitutions that allowed universal male suffrage, with some exceptions, through a complex indirect electoral system. These principles, together with the retention of the Napoleonic Code, represent some of the permanent gains of the French Revolution.

The Chambers

  • Chapter Four (Articles 40-53) concerned the Chamber of Peers. The upper chamber, the Chamber of Peers, was drawn from peerage and clergy ,appointed by the king on advice of the Prime Minister. Peers Spiritual are ecclesiastics. While Peers Temporal are life peers, appointed by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Chamber of Peers is led by the Grand Chancellor of France.
  • Chapter Five (Articles 53-58) concerned the Chamber of Deputies. The lower chamber, the Chamber of Deputies, was composed of deputies and procureurs elected to four-year terms by the indirect vote of the Departmental Councils and Provincial Parlements which in turn were elected by a limited suffrage. Male suffrage, which was not determined by property qualifications, favored the position of the commercial class in the new parliament, since there was no special provision for the Church or the nobility. Repeal of traditional property restrictions gave liberals the freer economy they wanted. There was no provision for literacy of voters until 1830, which allowed men in the popular groups access to suffrage.
  • Chapter Six (Articles 58-65) concerned the promulgation of laws and bills could originate in either the Deputies or the Peers; both had to pass a bill for it to stand a chance of becoming law. Either Chamber could amend or reject the others' proposals. The Parliament lay down their own rules of procedure, subject to the requirements in the Constitution. Among those, the required quorum of 90 members of Members of Parliament, and the rule that every proposed law requires three readings in the Parliament, before it can be passed into law. The King possessed the sole right to present draft laws to Parliament (Article 61) and the right to grant or withhold assent to laws passed by the Parliament (Article 62). The King would sign all bills before they became law. The King could exercise a suspensive royal veto to balance out the interests of the people. However the King would be obligated to sign all bills repassed by the Parliament with a two-thirds majority. In addition any third attempt by the king to veto that law would be squelched. The King summoned and prorogued Parliament and had the right to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, to be exercised at the request of Parliament and the prime minister, either at his discretion or following a motion of no confidence.

The King and his Ministers

Constitutional role of Crown

  • Chapter Seven (Articles 65-81) concerned the constitutional powers of the crown. The French monarch, as the head of state, holds great de jure power, but de facto only serves as a figurehead who is not interfering in politics. By article 65, 66 and 67, the powers vested in the King can only be exercised through the ministers, who are responsible for all acts, thus removing any political or legal liability from the monarch. The King is responsible for the implementation of the laws passed by the Parliament, the submission of bills to Parliament. The King sanctions and promulgates all laws passed by Parliament, and issued the ordinances and regulations necessary "for the application of laws". The King can issue edicts "for the execution of the laws and the security of the state". The King has power to enact laws by proclamation; provided that proclamations made by the king with the assent of the council should have the force of statute law if purporting to be made in the exercise of legislative power and if they were not prejudicial to "any person's inheritance, offices, liberties, goods, chattels or life". The King heads the cabinet councils (the king plus the members of the government), heading the Council on Foreign Affairs, recognizing new cabinets (in His Most Christian Majesty's Council).
  • Chapter Six (81-85) regulated the order of succession to the throne. The thrones of Navarre and Corsica were declared "inseparable" from that of France while precise rules on succession to the throne were spelled out. It declared Salic Law was abolished. And established a Male-preference primogeniture system. Females were eligible to succeed, if and only if she has no living brothers and no deceased brothers who left surviving legitimate descendants. A dynast's sons and their lines of descent all come before that dynast's daughters and their lines. Older sons and their lines come before younger sons and their lines. Older daughters and their lines come before younger daughters and their lines. A female ruler was guaranteed all the prerogatives and privileges of the throne, though her consort was not to take the title of ''king''. Article 85 establishes that children born to a marriage between a dynastic Bourbon and a person "not of corresponding dignity" (defined as "not belonging to any royal or sovereign house") were ineligible for the throne, as was any person who inherited the throne while ruling over another nation whose state religion was not Roman Catholicism, if unwilling to renounce that other throne and faith.
  • Chapter Seven (136-137) concerned issues of regency and guardianship, if the king was a minor. The age of majority was established at thirteen, and instructions were given concerning the appointment of a regent and a mandatory regency council, together with the prerogatives exercised by the same.
  • Chapter Eight (Articles 137-138) articles concerned the coronation and anointing of a new king, which was to take place "according to the rite of the roman catholicism". Explanatory Note 1 at the end of this chapter indicated that the king was conjointly crowned King of France and King of Navarre. During the coronation, the King was required to swear before both Chambers to act in accordance with the Charter, while the regent was required to swear loyalty to the King and the Charter.

His Most Christian Majesty's Government

  • Chapter Nine (Articles 138-145) concerns the Council of Ministers, which is a committee of the Privy Council. It established the office of President of the Council of Ministers, the king is responsible for appointing a new prime minister (who by convention appoints and may dismiss every other Minister of the Crown, and thereby constitutes and controls the government). The King cannot act without the consent of his cabinet and gave the Federal Parliament, the power to dismiss the cabinet instead of the king. His cabinet ministers were not allowed to interfere with nor assist one another; and Ministers were politically responsible solely to the king, who appointed them. However, they were legally responsible to the Parliament, who may be interrogated and dismiss by parliament.

Courts

  • Chapter Ten (Articles 145-164) concerned the organisation of the French court system. The Charter does not stipulate how the courts are to be organized. Instead, this is regulated by statute In the normal court system, there are Lower courts, Superior courts, and the Constitutional Court. Article 147 establishes the Court of Cassation. Article 178 establishes the jury for all felonies and for political offences and press-related offences. Article 149 establishes the High Council of Justice and the manner in which judges are appointed. Article 153 establishes 12 courts of appeal. Article 154 stipulates that military courts can be created in wartime. It also stipulates that there are Commercial Courts, Labour Courts and so-called Penalty Application Tribunals.
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