What is the connection between Miss France and chillies?

Miss France 2012 is visiting La Fleche on February 5th and there will be a chance to see the crown specially designed for her by Julien d’Orcel displayed in the window of one of the jewellers.

So why did I notice this? It happens that whilst on holiday in the Pyrennes we went to Espilette, having seen there was a Chilli Festival there about the time we were in the area.

We saw hundreds, no thousands, no millions (now I exagerate) of chillies, but we also made a discovery. Espillete is the birthplace of Agnes Souret who was the first Miss France.  It is a charming story of how she won the title.

In 1920, after suffering the rigours of the First World War, a Parisien journalist took an initiative to raise moral. He initiated the first competition for the most beautiful woman in France.  “La plus belle femme de France”. The journalist responsible for this grand scheme was  Maurice De Waleffe, the founder of Paris Midi.

1700 girls applied and 49 were shortlisted.  Then, each week, for 7 weeks, the photographs of 7 candidates were shown on cinema screens throughout France. A voting slip was given to everyone as they entered the cinema.

Agnes had sent a faded photo of her first communion with a letter saying that she was only 17 and did she have to cross the whole of France to try her luck?

Agnes Souret was a resounding winner and so became famous throughout France and farther afield, an innocent 17 year old girl with a Basque mother and Breton father was “La plus belle Femme de France”.

So often a charming story has a sad ending and this was so for Agnes Souret, for soon after here reign as Miss France, she died from appendicitis.

The crown will be displayed in the jewellers at 29 High Street, La Fleche, Dept 72, on Wednesday, February 8, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. A chance for budding princesses to go and have a look as Wednesday is not a school day for French children.


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