how to get french keyboard work with iPad Mini without changing the Region Setting to 'FRANCE'?

I live in the USA but correspond with friends who are French in France/Canada.
I have recently purchased Apple Wireless Keyboard with french character layout to use it with my iPad Mini.
I have added the Keyboard in the settings as an option. I have set French as an option in the preferred language option setting but unless I reset the Region in the setting to FRANCE, the french characters that I type on the keyboard does not print. For example, I have é on the keyboard but it prints as 2.
I know that I can hold a character such e on the English keyboard layout and get é but that is very inefficient and slow typing. I called Apple Support and they are pretty much useless (they stated that they are French...although they sell the keyboard in the US stores no one seems to know what to do with it). Is there anyone out in the community who knows how to get the keyboard work without setting the Region to France each time I need to use it.

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