Friday March 8, there will be a crowd at Place Vendôme, in Paris. For the first time, the sealing of the new Constitution will be done in public, in addition to the usual witnesses. According to the Élysée, the ceremony “will be as open as possible” in order to mark “the culmination of a collective fight” with the inscription in article 34 of the text of “the freedom guaranteed to women to have recourse to a voluntary termination of pregnancy. In addition to the 1000 official guests, including all parliamentarians, the general public will be able to witness this ceremonial gesture carried out using a sealing machine dating from 1810.

You will first have to make sure that it works. Monday, March 5, the heavy 300-kilo press used to affix the wax seal to the Constitution was taken out of the office of the Keeper of the Seals, where it is permanently located. For two days, the craftsmen from the Mobilier national cabinetmaking workshop then checked its proper functioning, and did some varnishing. “The machine was ordered in 1810 by Cambacérès from the cabinetmaker François-Honoré Jacob-Desmalter and is in good condition,” specifies Hervé Lemoine, director of National Furniture. On its mahogany veneer, brass and gilded bronze decorations feature a mirror, a snake, laurel leaves – symbols of prudence and solemnity, two inherent qualities for a man of the law. The Empire cabinet has two leaves and is topped with a large screw. The piece of furniture is part of a set of furniture used by Cambacérès who was Minister of Justice, and participated in the drafting of the Napoleonic Code. Cambacérès’ large office is still visible at the Hôtel de Roquelaure, today the Paris headquarters of the Ministry of Ecological Transition.

On Friday, the sealing cabinet will be installed in front of the Ministry of Justice, facing the Vendôme column. First of all, we will affix the symbol of the Second Republic, with Liberty surrounded by republican symbols, including a rooster, on the reverse side, and the motto “in the name of the French people” on the reverse. Then a wafer of green wax will be slipped as well as a tricolor ribbon.

In the past, kings authenticated themselves using a seal ring bearing their personal mark. Pepin the Short or Charlemagne, like the Carolingian and Merovingian sovereigns, even slipped hair into their wax seals to certify them.

Friday March 8, it will be up to the Minister of Justice, as is customary, to give the final turn of the screw to the sealing press. Two copies will be sealed, one being kept in the National Archives and the other at the general secretariat of the government. The copy from the Archives will join the iron cabinet, an 18th century safe, where 936 exceptional documents are kept, including the five Constitutions, the Oath of the Tennis Court, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 , the wills of Louis XIV and Napoleon I or the diary of Louis XVI.

If, today, a publication in the Official Journal guarantees the authenticity of a text, “the position of a seal is a form of validity which gives weight to a solemn act, on the basis of a decree of 1848 », Estimates in those around Emmanuel Macron. There have been fourteen laws sealed since 1946, mainly during constitutional revisions, the last of which dates from 2008. It was Rachida Dati, then Minister of Justice, who reported the press.