Historic Cases of "Power Behind the Throne": Part One
Grigori Rasputin, Edith Wilson, and Zhou Enlai were three of the most influential people of the twentieth century. None of them were in the primary position of power. They were all "the power behind the throne".
- Grigori Yefimovich Novykh (Rasputin) was born to a peasant Russian peasant in 1869.
- Although he entered the monastery at age 18, he did not become a monk.
- He married and had 4 children.
- His promiscuity earned him the surname Rasputin, which means "debauched one".
- Rasputin was a self-proclaimed holy man, living off the donations of peasants for many years.
- He had developed a reputation as having healing powers. Historical documents suggest these powers may have been genuine.
- The Russian Court had developed an interest in mysticism and Rasputin, with his reputation for healing was welcomed into it.
- After healing the hunting dog of a member of the Royal Family, he came to the attention of Tsar Nicholas II.
- Nicholas' heir, Alexis suffered hemophilia and was not expected to live. Rasputin was asked by Tsarina Alexandria to "lay his hands" upon him.
- After this, Alexis' condition improved significantly.
- This cemented Rasputin's influence with the Royal Family, especially after Rasputin warned that Alexis' fate and that of the Romanov dynasty was linked to him.
- Rasputin gained notoriety after having numerous affairs with aristocratic women. At one time it was rumored the Tsarina was among his conquests.
- In 1915 Nicholas II left the court to lead his troops on the Eastern front. Rasputin's influence reached its peak.
- Although Alexandria in charge, Rasputin was the one making the decisions. He was appointed as Alexandria's personal adviser.
- During this period he influenced the appointment of church and government officials including cabinet ministers.
- Rasputin also welded some influence over Russia's military.
- It was ultimately his influence over the Royal Family that led to his assassination in December 1916.
- His influence resulted in the Tsar becoming separated from his people. The country lost faith in its Ruler.
- Nicholas II made many poor decisions, while under the influence of Rasputin. These decisions ultimately lead to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty.
- Edith Wilson was born Edith Bolling in 1872, in Wytheville, Virginia.
- Her father's family tree shows her to be a direct descendant of Pocahontas.
- She had eleven siblings, although two died at birth.
- She was proud of her Southern heritage, and she and her family were staunch supporters of the Confederate States of America.
- In 1896 she met and married her first husband, Norman Galt. He was a jeweler from Washington D.C.
- They had one child who lived only a few days. She was unable to have any further children.
- Mr. Galt died suddenly in 1908.
- In 1915 she was introduced to the widowed US President Woodrow Wilson.
- Rumors circulated that the couple had been having an affair before the death of President Wilson's first wife. The rumors also suggested President Wilson and Mrs. Galt had murdered the then First Lady to be together.
- The rumors reached fever pitch and resulted in President Wilson, suggesting they end their engagement. Instead, they waited for a year after the first Mrs. Wilson's death to marry.
- Mrs. Wilson was the First Lady from 1915 to 1921.
- In 1919, aged 62 and while serving as President Mr. Wilson suffered a stroke. This left him incapacitated and partially paralyzed.
- Mrs. Wilson became the only communication link between President Wilson and his Cabinet. All communications were screened by Mrs. Wilson.
- She alone decided on the matters that were important enough to justify discussion with her bed-ridden husband.
- When the Secretary of State conducted several cabinet meetings in the absence of the President (and Mrs. Wilson), Mrs. Wilson campaigned for his removal.
- A foreign representative's diplomatic credentials were not accepted until he removed an aide who had made disparaging comments about Mrs. Wilson.
- As President Wilson's health declined, Mrs. Wilson began serving as a conduit to the President, attending meetings on his behalf and then passing on the information she deemed appropriate.
- History suggests some of President Wilson's policies were disrupted, by the actions and views, of Mrs. Wilson.
- Both international and domestic policy was shaped by Mrs. Wilson's views over this time.
- Mrs. Wilson claimed her role was a benign stewardship. Historians disagree, claiming she was effectively fulfilling the role of President, in all but name. She remained in that role until the end of President Wilson's term in 1921.
- Mrs. Wilson died of congestive heart failure aged 89.
- Zhou Enlai (Zhou) was born in China, in 1898.
- Zhou became interested in politics while studying in Japan.
- When he returned to China he joined the Communist Party and became active in student politics. He was arrested as a result for protesting in 1920.
- Zhou left China for France where he remained for several years. He was the organizer for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Europe throughout his time there.
- He returned to China and married in 1925.
- Over time Zhou advanced through the ranks of the Communist Party.
- In 1927 Zhou became Director of the Military for the CCP Committee.
- He was elected to the CCP Central Committee in 1927.
- Zhou played a major part in the Nachang Uprising in 1927. When Nationalists reclaimed the city, he was forced to escape to Shanghai.
- Following the Long March Zhou was appointed Chief Negoiator and had the job of forming an alliance with the Nationalists. He was also instrumental in establishing a united front to stop Japanese aggression in the region.
- From 1945 Zhou maintained a close relationship with Mao Ze Dong (Mao), who relied on him for his diplomacy skills.
- In 1949 he became the First Premier of the People's Republic of China. He remained in this role until his death in 1976.
- Zhou also held the role of Foriegn Minister from 1949 to 1958.
- This dual role meant that he played a significant part in shaping Chinese foreign policy and diplomacy.
- Zhou was the architect of all major diplomatic policy for China over this period.
- His successes included the Chinese-Soviet Treaty of Alliance in 1950. It was Zhou who negotiated the historic meeting between Chairman Mao and US President Harry Truman in 1971, and his later meeting with President Richard Nixon in 1972.
- Zhou has been described as scholars as the "single most important stabilizing factor" over the time of Mao's Cultural Revolution. He played a key role in restoring Deng Xiaoping to power.
- Many believe that Zhou was the true ruler of China over this period. Scholars argue that Zhou ran the country while Chairman Mao focused on the ideology of Communism.
- Zhou died of cancer in 1976.
We extensively searched scholarly articles, newspaper stories, historic research, and various other articles to determine the people who have been described as "the power behind the throne". Once we had identified a list of people, we cross-referenced it with the 2019 list of G20 countries to determine which players met these criteria. Those who did not come from G20 countries were excluded. We then considered each of the people on the list. We reviewed the aforementioned sources and considered the degree of influence each had played in shaping the future of their country. By doing this, we established the people we considered played the most significant roles. We researched each of these people extensively to establish a reliable timeline and biography of their lives. We also researched each of the leaders they served under to corroborate the true extent of their influence.