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Someone who wields substantial power, authority, or influence from a secret, anonymous, or unofficial position, as within a monarchy or political hierarchy. Derived from the French term éminence grise. The wealthy oil baron became known as something of a gray eminence behind the governorship of the state throughout the late 1960s.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
The power behind the throne; a person who wields considerable power but secretly or surreptitiously. The term is a translation from the French of éminence grise. This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay (1577–1638), the trusted behind-the-scenes adviser of Cardinal Richelieu. The term came into English in the early 1940s when Aldous Huxley wrote a book about Tremblay entitled Grey Eminence (1941). See also power behind the throne.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer