Levée en masse (French). A patriotic rising of a whole nation
to defend their country from invasion.
The Queen's Levée.
It was customary for the queens of France to receive at the hour of
their levé —i.e.
while making their toilet- the visits of
certain noblemen. This custom was afterwards demanded as a right by the
court physicians, messengers from the king, the queen's secretary, and
some few other gentlemen, so that ten or more persons were often in the
dressing-room while the queen was making her toilet and sipping her
coffee. The word is now used to express that concourse of gentlemen who
wait on the queen on mornings appointed. No ladies except those
attached to the court are present on these occasions.
Kings and some nobles have their levées sometimes of an evening.
“When I was very young (said Lord Eldon to Mrs. Forster) Lord
Mansfield used to hold levées on Sunday evenings.” —Twiss: Lord
Eldon, vol. i. chap. v. p. 68.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894