To Jean-Marie’s disappointment, Marion dropped out of politics two years ago, refusing to seek a new mandate as a National Rally lawmaker to found a private school in Lyon seen as a training ground for far-right leaders.

She denies speculation she is making an end-run around Aunt Marine for a comeback. Nevertheless, the noise created after at least two below-the-radar meetings became known underscores Marechal’s potentially pivotal role in the power politics of the French right.

A dinner in late June between Marechal and more than a dozen officials and lawmakers of The Republicans, or LR, caused a firestorm within the main conservative party. The conservative mainstream has long been extremely wary of liaisons with France’s far right, but the meeting suggested that some conservatives may believe the only way to survive is by joining forces with the likes of Marechal.