phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Black curtain

Posted by ESC on January 06, 2005

In Reply to: Covert ops posted by David FG on January 06, 2005

: : : : : : : What is the current English equivalent of the French "éminence grise"? The power behind the throne? A gray emminence? An "éminence grise" implies the existence of whom? The figure-head? The straw man?
: : : : : : : Finally, can anyone give an actual example of such an association in the modern polotical scenario: a "éminence grise" and a figure-head performing together?
: : : : : : : Thanks.
: : : : : : : Jose Carlos

: : : : : : Grey suits

: : : : :
: : : : : éminence grise is a very well-known phrase, certainly in the UK.

: : : : : An example from (fairly) recently might be Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ex-'Special Adviser' Alastair Campbell.

: : : : : DFG

: : : : One might also consider the Bush/ Cheney team here in the US to be such.
: : : : SR

: : : In the U.S., "king maker" is a term used by those in politics who are behind the scenes selecting and promoting a candidate for office.

: : Both "eminence grise" and "king-maker" are common-usage for a powerful person acting covertly - another could be 'power-broker' - somebody who can grant access to political power without fronting or presenting themselves.

: : wasn't the original "eminence grise" Cardinal Richeleau at the French court?

: : L

: I think that the original éminence grise was actually Francois le Clerc du Tremblay (known as Pere Joseph) a Capuchin adviser to Richelieu.


Yes, that's correct, according to William Safire. Pere Joseph de Trembly, "attired in a gray habit, became known as L'Eminence Grise -- 'the Gray Cardinal,' who, while not a Cardinal at all, often exercised the power of a prince of the Church because of his influence on Richelieu. The title's ghostly connotation made it eminently suitable for political use; a gray eminence is now used to describe any 'power behind the throne' or 'kingmaker' who has the ear of a political leader but does not often appear publicly...Japanese Liberal party leader Tsuji Krouki, a behind-the-scenes power, was described as a 'kuromaku,' or a 'black curtain.'" From Safire's New Political Dictionary by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).

Wouldn't Rasputin also be termed a power-behind-the-throne?

Mr. Safire also includes a term for a spouse who is a power-behind-the-throne: "rustling behind the jalousies -- intervention in political affairs by the candidate's spouse...A jalousie is a slatted screen, providing concealment without muffling the sound of a swishing skirt."

Also, the real political decisions are said to be made in "smoke-filled rooms" rather than in a public arena such as a legislative floor. In Kentucky there really was a smoke-filled backroom -- the bar in the back of Flynn's restaurant in Frankfort. It's closed now. A colorful part of our past gone.

Safire defines a "smoke-filled room" as "a place of political intrigue and chicanery, where candidates are selected by party bosses in cigar-chewing sessions..."

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