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Éminence grise

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Title: Éminence grise  
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Subject: Jean-Léon Gérôme, François Leclerc du Tremblay, Les Guignols de l'info, Power behind the throne, Tommy Funebo
Collection: French Words and Phrases, Political Metaphors Referring to People
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Éminence grise

An éminence grise (French: , grey eminence) is a powerful decision-maker or advisor 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 title His Eminence is used to address or refer to a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church.[1] 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".[2]

Leclerc is popularly referred to in several 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. 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.

An éminence grise can alternatively refer to an elderly ("grey-haired") personage who is renowned for past accomplishments, and now acts as an advisor rather than a principal actor. They might be politically influential as a consequence of their honored status within an influential group or society as a whole. For example, a distinguished retired physics professor emeritus who advises scientific leaders and government officials on nuclear energy; or a retired U.S. Senator who advises the President on an informal basis, etc.

Contents

  • Classic Examples 1
  • Modern usage 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Classic Examples

  • Stańczyk - was a Polish jester renowned for his great intelligence and political insight.
Jan Matejko, Stańczyk

Modern usage

During the James Baker. Andrew W. Marshall, the noted strategist for the Office of Net Assessment, has been described as a Gray Eminence.

See also

References

  1. ^ Historical reference to address in the Roman Catholic Church
  2. ^ Mould, Michael (2011). The Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French. New York: Taylor & Francis. p. 149.  
  3. ^ a b 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".  
  • O'Connell, D.P. (1968). Richelieu. New York: The World Publishing Company. 
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