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The third Le Pen - Rising star of the National Front

The Local · 14 Apr 2015, 09:00

Published: 14 Apr 2015 09:00 GMT+02:00

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Marion Marechal-Le Pen was just two when she made her political debut, pictured in the arms of her grandfather Jean-Marie in an election poster for his far-right National Front (FN) party.

Fast-forward 23 years and the blonde, telegenic mother is France's youngest lawmaker and a rising star of the FN, with ultra-conservative views that often position her to the right even of her aunt, party chief Marine Le Pen.

One of the politically active members of the Le Pen family, Marion appears to be patriarch Jean-Marie's favourite and it came as no surprise that he suggested she take his place in upcoming regional elections, after a public spat with his daughter Marine forced him to stand down.

"If she accepts, I think she would head a very good list (of candidates). She is certainly the best," the 86-year-old FN founder told Le Figaro magazine in comments published Monday.

And the closely guarded, deeply religious, smiley law graduate certainly does fascinate.

Ill-at-ease in front of journalists and cameras, she has no qualms in standing up in the lower house National Assembly and accusing a visibly furious Prime Minister Manuel Valls of "moronic contempt" towards the FN.

Or joining the ranks of anti-gay marriage protesters in 2013 when Marine decided to stay away.

Or re-tweeting a video by an FN European Parliament member warning about Islam's threat to France despite strict orders not to publicise it from her aunt -- who is trying to rid the party of its racist and anti-Semitic image.

(This video is courtesy of the Financial Times)

'Insulted, attacked, threatened'

But Marion was not always so visible.

Born in 1989 in an upmarket suburb of Paris to Jean-Marie Le Pen's second daughter -- Marine being the youngest -- she grew up in a big mansion along with the rest of the family members.

The home with its large garden was a haven of security for Marion, who suffered from carrying a surname so obviously linked to the figurehead of France's far-right and his string of convictions for hate speech.

"We would be insulted, attacked, sometimes physically threatened," she recently said in an interview on French television.

"At the time, my school teacher advised my parents to put me in a private school for several years... to give me time perhaps to harden up a bit and to be able to defend myself."

And so they did.

When she went to university to study law, people remember a girl who was discreet, and crucially who had taken Le Pen out of her surname and just kept her father's, Marechal, according to an investigative TV programme on the young lawmaker.

But one day in class, her teacher made disparaging comments about Jean-Marie Le Pen, former fellow student Makeda Pecastaing told journalists.

Marion raised her hand, and asked him to stop. Why? he asked.

"She responded, 'you're talking about my grandfather'."

"Everyone turned around, and the teacher was left speechless. He apologised and left."

A reluctant politician

Marion appears to have made a reluctant entrance into politics.

She stood -- unsuccessfully -- for regional elections in 2010, and famously cracked when a reporter asked her to outline priority areas she wanted to address, unable to provide a single example.

Story continues below…

Her grandfather nevertheless persuaded her to run in the 2012 legislative elections in Carpentras, a town in the southeastern Vaucluse region.

"She did not want to be a candidate. She even wrote to me. 'Granddad, my decision is irrevocable'," Jean-Marie told AFP recently.

"I'm from Brittany, I'm stubborn: 'How can you ask people to campaign for the (National) Front if people from our family don't?'."

And she won aged just 22, becoming the youngest ever lawmaker in the history of modern France.

Since then, bar a short break to have her daughter, Marion has gone from strength to strength.

Her popularity among FN supporters is such that she is threatening to cast a shadow on her aunt.

But a person close to Marion, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she would never go against her aunt.

"And vice versa."

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