Éminence grise

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François Leclerc du Tremblay is the figure in black, depicted descending the staircase in this oil painting (1873) by Jean-Léon Gérôme.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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".[3] 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.

Historical examples[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Connell, D.P. (1968). Richelieu. New York: The World Publishing Company.
  2. ^ Historical reference to address in the Roman Catholic Church
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Andreotti. La vita di un uomo politico, la storia di un'epoca.
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Leon Trotsky, "Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence"
  9. ^ a b c "The 'Grey Cardinals' of modern-day Russia and China".
  10. ^ "A Presidential Friendship Has Many South Koreans Crying Foul". New York Times. October 27, 2016.
  11. ^ "A Rasputinesque mystery woman and a cultish religion could take down South Korea's president". Quartz. October 28, 2016.
  12. ^ "'It's actually a system where Choi Sun-sil tells the President what to do'". The Hankyoreh. October 26, 2016.
  13. ^ "Investigations into 'Choi Soon-sil gate' widening". The Korea Times. October 23, 2016.
  14. ^ "Key suspects still at large in Choi Sun-sil probe". JoongAng Ilbo. October 25, 2016.
  15. ^ "All the Queen's men and women". The Straits Times. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Presidential speeches found on confidante's PC: report". The Korea Herald. October 25, 2016.
  17. ^ "South Korea's presidency 'on the brink of collapse' as scandal grows". Washington Post. October 29, 2016.
  18. ^ "Can Pres. Park be investigated over Choi Sun-sil scandal?". The Hankyoreh. October 28, 2016.
  19. ^ "Troubling revelations about Seoul's 'Shadow President': The Korea Herald columnist". The Straits Times. October 27, 2016.
  20. ^ "'Choi-gate' scandal snowballing". JoongAng Ilbo. October 22, 2016.
  21. ^ "South Korea's leader acknowledges ties to woman in scandal". Washington Post. October 25, 2016.
  22. ^ Rimmer, Michael (2015). The Angel Roofs of East Anglia. The Lutterworth Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7188-4318-2.