This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. (Learn how and when to remove these template messages) This article possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations. Statements consisting only of original research should be removed. (October 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) This article may need to be rewritten to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. You can help. The talk page may contain suggestions. (March 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

The phrase "power behind the throne" refers to a person or group that informally exercises the real power of a high-ranking office, such as a head of state. In politics, it most commonly refers to a relative, aide, or nominal subordinate of a political leader (often called a "figurehead") who serves as de facto leader, setting policy through possessing great influence and/or skillful manipulation.

The original concept of a power behind the throne was a medieval-era figure of speech referring to the fact that the monarch's policies could be set by a counsellor not seated in the throne but standing behind it—perhaps whispering in the monarch's ear—out of common sight. In recent times, family members and official or unofficial advisers might take on a similar role. Sometimes it is difficult to assess whether such an accusation is true or a conspiracy theory.

Historical examples

Historical examples of a "power behind the throne" include:

Related terms

A related term is éminence grise (French: "gray eminence"), a powerful advisor or decision-maker who operates secretly or otherwise unofficially. This phrase originally referred to Cardinal de Richelieu's right-hand man, François Leclerc du Tremblay (also known as the Père Joseph), a Capuchin friar who wore grey robes. Because the Cardinal de Richelieu, the power behind the throne of King Louis XIII of France, as a Catholic cardinal was styled Son Eminence ("His Eminence"), his alter ego Père Joseph was called l'éminence grise (which is also the English title of his biography by Aldous Huxley). Martin Bormann was referred to as the Brown Eminence, brown referring to the brown uniform of the Nazi Party.

The modern usage of the term proconsul, as analogy for a person from a foreign power manipulating another country's internal affairs, is also referred as the "power behind the throne".

See also


  1. ^ Jane Bussey, "Joseph Marie Córdoba Montoya" in Encyclopedia of Mexico vol. 1. p. 344. Chicago: Fitzroy and Dearborn 1997.
  2. ^ "Reseñas Biográficas – Diego Portales Palazuelos" (in Spanish). Valparaíso and Santiago: Library of Congress of Chile. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  3. ^ "Diego Portales". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved February 21, 2019. When the Conservative Party entered office in 1830, he was, as chief minister, the real power in the land. Disdainful of political freedoms, he imprisoned his pipiolo (liberal) opponents, silenced the opposition press, and subdued the army. Portales ruled through the constitution of 1833, a document that created a centralized state dominated by the conservative oligarchy.
  4. ^ "Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, power behind the throne". BBC News. 6 October 2020.
  5. ^ "UAE leader returns after lengthy unexplained absence". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. ^ Worth, Robert F. (9 January 2020). "Mohammed bin Zayed's Dark Vision of the Middle East's Future". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  7. ^ Dickey, Christopher (25 June 2013). "Qatar's Succession Drama". The Daily Beast.