Gendarmes

“Men at arms,” the armed police of France. The term was first applied to those who marched in the train of knights; subsequently to the cavalry; in the time of Louis XIV. to a body of horse charged with the preservation of order; after the revolution to a military police chosen from old soldiers of good character; now it is applied to the ordinary police, whose costume is half civil and half military.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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