President of tiny republic dies at 99

Sept. 4, 2005 at 9:49 PM
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MONTBENOIT, France, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- One of the smallest countries in Europe, so obscure it is almost unknown outside its own borders, has buried its president.

Gabrielle Pourchet, named president for life of the Free Republic of Saugeais in 1972, died last week at the age of 99. She was laid to rest Saturday in a service attended by hundreds of residents of the Saugeais Valley, which is set in the French Alps near the Swiss border, The Scotsman reported.

Madame Pourchet only moved to the area at the age of 25 with her husband, Georges. The couple owned a hotel in Montbenoit, which eventually became the Sauget capital.

The republic was founded in 1947 when Georges Pourchet began teasing a local official about needing a pass to enter Saugeais. Georges Pourchet, the first president, died in 1970, and the office remained vacant until his wife succeeded him two years later.

"Thanks to her we had lots of television coverage," said Louis Perrey, the republic's general secretary. "She was someone with great media presence who had an exemplary lack of affectation. She was an extraordinary woman."

Under Madame Pourchet's leadership, the republic adopted its own flag and other symbols.

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