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 of a "power behind the throne" include:
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".
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.