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‘The problem with the French is, they don’t have a word for entrepreneur’. Whether or not ex-President Bush ever said this – the chances are that he didn’t – we need look no further than the Normandy coast, and a certain Alexandre Prosper Hubert Legrand, for proof that the French entrepreneurial spirit was already in full flow in 1863.

Alexandre Legrand was born in Fécamp in 1830, son of a ship’s captain and descendant of the town’s former procurateur fiscal, Prosper-Elie Covillard. Alexandre went into business as a wines and spirits merchant. The story goes that one momentous day in 1863 he was in the family library, looking through a set of medieval manuscipts purchased in 1791 by his ancestor Covillard, who like Alexandre was an avid collector. These manuscripts had been miraculously rescued from the benedictine abbey at Fécamp after its destruction in the Revolution. Amongst them, funnily enough, Alexandre discovered a Venetian monk’s long-forgotten secret recipe for an elixir that had been highly rated in the 16th century by François I and his court. Alexandre duly obtained the numerous ingredients and painstakingly re-created the liqueur.

Having thus established the Bénédictine brand, Legrand devised eye-catching packaging and commissioned famous artists to design publicity material. At a time when advertising was still in its infancy, the Norman’s visionary product positioning and marketing techniques brought sensational results. Bénédictine was launched with a high-profile promotional campaign both in France and abroad, sales skyrocketed, Bénédictine rapidly became a household name, and by 1888 Legrand had built the flamboyant, majestic Palais Bénédictine at Fécamp.

Today, Bénédictine posters are collectors items and can change hands for thousands of euros.