An éminence grise (French pronunciation: [eminɑ̃s ɡʁiz]) or grey eminence is a powerful decision-maker or adviser who operates "behind the scenes", or in a non-public or unofficial capacity.
This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay, the right-hand man of Cardinal Richelieu. Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who was renowned for his beige robe attire, as beige was termed "grey" in that era. The style His Eminence is used to address or refer to a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. Although Leclerc never achieved the rank of cardinal, those around him addressed him as such in deference to the considerable influence this "grey" friar held over "His Eminence the Cardinal". As a result, the term grey cardinal has also been used.
Leclerc is referred to in several popular works. Aldous Huxley wrote an English biography of Leclerc entitled Grey Eminence. There is also an 1873 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, L'Éminence Grise, which depicts him descending the grand staircase of the Palais Cardinal and the deference shown to him by others present. Leclerc is referred to in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers as the character Father Joseph, a powerful associate of Richelieu and one to be feared.
- Empress Jia and Empress Dowager Cixi are two examples of women who essentially ruled Imperial Chinese dynasties. As women were barred from reigning in their own right, the history of China is replete with cases of women exercising political power through their male relatives.
- The Italian Christian Democratic leader Giulio Andreotti was often seen as the éminence grise of governments even when he was not actually Prime Minister.
- Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney was described as an éminence grise of the George W. Bush administration, "a powerful but uncompromising politician with the ear of the president" regarding matters of national security and foreign policy.
- American diplomat and policy maker Dennis Ross was "viewed as the éminence grise, a sort of Rasputin who casts a spell over secretaries of state and presidents", according to Middle East experts who worked with him during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
- John Dee is sometimes considered an éminence grise. Officially, he was the court astrologer to Elizabeth I, but exercised more power as an overall advisor to the Queen.
- Joseph Stalin was frequently called an éminence grise by Leon Trotsky, whom he defeated in the succession struggles for Soviet leadership following Lenin's death in 1924.[better source needed]
- Adolf Hitler's private secretary Martin Bormann was nicknamed the Brown Eminence.
- Mikhail Suslov acted as an éminence grise behind General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. A political hardliner aptly nicknamed the Grey Cardinal of the Kremlin, he was the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union but also played the role of unofficial Chief-Ideologue of the CPSU and one of the key decision makers during not only the Brezhnev, but also the Khrushchev and Stalin eras. Other observers however have given the title of éminence grise during the Brezhnev era variously to Yuri Andropov, Dmitry Ustinov, Andrei Gromyko and Konstantin Chernenko.
- Choi Soon-sil was revealed by corruption investigations during the 2016 South Korean political scandal to have had previously hidden political influence over the 11th President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye. She was perceived to be responsible for masterminding governmental policy and decision-making during Park's administration.
- William de la Pole to Henry VI of England.
- Jean Monnet has been described as an éminence grise given his key role in drafting the Schuman Declaration.
- Joker Arroyo emerged as an éminence grise to Corazon Aquino after the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
- Wang Huning is often considered the éminence grise of three paramount leaders of China: Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping.
- Vladislav Surkov is often regarded by observers to be the éminence grise of Vladimir Putin.
- Jarosław Kaczyński is often regarded as the real leader of Poland via his position as leader of the ruling party, twice choosing who should be the Prime Minister of Poland contrary to precedence where said role is taken by the leader of the ruling party, currently himself. Despite no official role in government he often meets foreign leaders in a representative capacity, such as Angela Merkel, Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
- O'Connell, D.P. (1968). Richelieu. New York: The World Publishing Company.
- Historical reference to address in the Roman Catholic Church
- Mould, Michael (2011). The Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French. New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-136-82573-6. Retrieved 15 June 2012.
- McMahon, Keith (2013). Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 16. ISBN 9781442222908. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- Franco, Massimo (April 18, 2010). Andreotti. La vita di un uomo politico, la storia di un'epoca. Edizioni Mondadori. ISBN 9788804595632 – via Google Books.
- Walsh, Kenneth T. (January 23, 2006). "The Cheney Factor: How the scars of public life shaped the vice president's unyielding view of executive power". U.S. News & World Report. Archived from the original on January 17, 2006.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a Cheney critic said: "The power behind the throne — an eminence grise — that's what Dick Cheney has become."
- Cooper, Helene; Landler, Mark (21 May 2011). "Obama's Peace Tack Contrasts With Key Aide, Friend of Israel". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 January 2017.
- Leon Trotsky, "Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence"
- "The 'Grey Cardinals' of modern-day Russia and China". Qrius. March 16, 2018.
- "A Presidential Friendship Has Many South Koreans Crying Foul". New York Times. October 27, 2016.
- "A Rasputinesque mystery woman and a cultish religion could take down South Korea's president". Quartz. October 28, 2016.
- "'It's actually a system where Choi Sun-sil tells the President what to do'". The Hankyoreh. October 26, 2016.
- "Investigations into 'Choi Soon-sil gate' widening". The Korea Times. October 23, 2016.
- "Key suspects still at large in Choi Sun-sil probe". JoongAng Ilbo. October 25, 2016.
- "All the Queen's men and women". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
- "Presidential speeches found on confidante's PC: report". The Korea Herald. October 25, 2016.
- "South Korea's presidency 'on the brink of collapse' as scandal grows". Washington Post. October 29, 2016.
- "Can Pres. Park be investigated over Choi Sun-sil scandal?". The Hankyoreh. October 28, 2016.
- "Troubling revelations about Seoul's 'Shadow President': The Korea Herald columnist". The Straits Times. October 27, 2016.
- "'Choi-gate' scandal snowballing". JoongAng Ilbo. October 22, 2016.
- "South Korea's leader acknowledges ties to woman in scandal". Washington Post. October 25, 2016.
- Rimmer, Michael (2015). The Angel Roofs of East Anglia. The Lutterworth Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7188-4318-2.
- Berend, Ivan T. (2021). The Economics and Politics of European Integration: Populism, Nationalism and the History of the EU (1st ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-367-55842-0.
- Branigin, William (7 October 2015). "Joker Arroyo, key anti-Marcos figure in Philippines, dies in U.S. at 88". The Washington Post.
- Foy, Henry (26 February 2016). "Jaroslaw Kaczynski: Poland's kingmaker". Financial Times.
- "Polish Premier Meets Kingmaker Kaczynski as Shake Up Looms". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
- "Who is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the puppet master of Poland's far-right?". Euronews.com. 26 June 2020.
- "Merkel making 'last chance' visit to Poland". Deutsche Welle.
- "Trump in Poland: Five reasons why he is going there". BBC News. 5 July 2017.
- "Joe Biden to travel to Europe for extraordinary summit on Ukraine as 3million have now fled the country and 20,000 feared dead in besieged Mariupol alone". Independent.ie.