One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A person who exercises power or influence in a certain sphere without holding an official position.‘for years he has been an éminence grise operating in the shadows of party policy-making’
- ‘But the Hutton inquiry isn't the kind of thing that éminences grises and powers behind thrones are used to.’
1930s: French, literally ‘gray eminence’. The term was originally applied to Cardinal Richelieu's gray-cloaked private secretary, Père Joseph (1577–1638).
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