This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2022)
The constitutions of France are the various foundational texts that have organized the institutions of France at different periods of its history. These may be known under various names – constitution, charter, constitutional laws or acts – and take precedence over other legislative texts.[a]
The constitutional text currently in force in France is the constitution of 1958, which founded the Fifth Republic. It was approved by the people in a referendum on September 28, 1958, and officially promulgated on October 4 of the same year.
The constitutional history of France is made up of many changes that have led to experimentation with a large number of political regime types since the French Revolution, ranging from an assembly regime [fr] (such as the National Convention) to reactionary dictatorship (such as the Second Empire or Vichy regime), which are probably the two of the most opposite regime types possible.
The Kingdom of France, under the Ancien Régime, was an absolute monarchy and lacked a formal constitution; the regime essentially relied on custom. That said, certain rules known as the fundamental laws of the Kingdom were outside the power of the monarch to change without further consent. These rules were mainly about the inheritance of the Crown, which required strict primogeniture unless the heir was not Catholic, and from the Treaty of Troyes onward was strictly agnatic (male-only) as well. The Parlement of Paris, a primarily judicial body with quasi-legislative functions that was tasked with applying the fundamental laws, rarely brooked modification of the laws. For instance, Louis XIV tried by his will and testament to change the inheritance order, but the Parlement annulled it. On the other hand, the law was occasionally changed, as when the provisions of the Peace of Utrecht renouncing the claim of Louis XIV's grandson Philippe to inherit the throne of France were approved to allow him to inherit the throne of Spain.
Following the restoration of the Monarchy:
In France, the preamble to the constitution of the Fifth Republic of 1958 was considered ancillary and therefore non-binding until a major jurisprudential reversal by the Constitutional Council in a decision of 16 July 1971. This decision, which began with the words "Having regard to the constitution and its preamble," affected a considerable change of French constitutional law, as the preamble and the texts it referred to, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and the preamble to the constitution of the Fourth Republic, took their place alongside the constitution proper as texts understood as being invested with constitutional value. The Charter of the Environment of 2004 was later appended to the preamble, and the Constitutional Council identified three informal categories consisting of the fundamental principles recognized by the laws of the Republic, the principles of constitutional value [fr], and the objectives of constitutional value [fr].