When an anointed leader cannot control the reins of power, someone is always ready in the shadows.
The King Whisperers
That power as frequently resides behind the throne as on it is the theme of The King Whisperers, a useful compendium of manipulation by Kerwin Swint, an American professor whose previous work examined the 25 dirtiest political campaigns of all time.
Swint divides his power-brokers into categories: empire builders (Bismark and Ibrahim Pasha), rebels (Che Guevara), fixers (Karl Rove), generals (Saladin and Cromwell) schemers (Rasputin) and so on. Whether there is a common thread that unites these characters is the bigger question. Trotsky was clearly an idealist, Rasputin a lunatic and Himmler a manifestation of pure evil.
Of those last three, one was assassinated, the second murdered and the latter took his life. Yet the consequences of over-reaching ambition are not always violent.
Witness the public humiliation of Rebekah Brooks, News International's fallen chief executive, who believed herself indispensable to Rupert Murdoch until forced onto her sword. If there is one lesson, it is that authority always abhors a void. When an anointed leader cannot control the reins of power, someone is always ready in the shadows.