Éminence grise

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François Leclerc du Tremblay (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 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]

Contemporary 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 ^ Historical reference to address in the Roman Catholic Church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. ^ Franco, Massimo (April 18, 2010). Andreotti. La vita di un uomo politico, la storia di un'epoca. Edizioni Mondadori. ISBN 9788804595632 – via Google Books.
  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. ^ McGovern, James (1968). Martin Bormann. New York: William Morrow & Company. p. 77. OCLC 441132.
  10. ^ a b c "The 'Grey Cardinals' of modern-day Russia and China". Qrius. March 16, 2018.
  11. ^ The Last Foundling: The Memoir of an Underdog. Cloud Designing. ISBN 9780957200623 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Miles, Rosalind (February 24, 1985). Women and Power. Macdonald. ISBN 9780356106458 – via Google Books.
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  26. ^ Rimmer, Michael (2015). The Angel Roofs of East Anglia. The Lutterworth Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-7188-4318-2.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ Branigin, William (7 October 2015). "Joker Arroyo, key anti-Marcos figure in Philippines, dies in U.S. at 88". The Washington Post.
  29. ^ Foy, Henry (26 February 2016). "Jaroslaw Kaczynski: Poland's kingmaker". Financial Times.
  30. ^ "Polish Premier Meets Kingmaker Kaczynski as Shake Up Looms". Bloomberg. 7 November 2017. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  31. ^ "Who is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the puppet master of Poland's far-right?". Euronews.com. 26 June 2020.
  32. ^ "Merkel making 'last chance' visit to Poland". Deutsche Welle.
  33. ^ "Trump in Poland: Five reasons why he is going there". BBC News. 5 July 2017.
  34. ^ "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. 15 March 2022.