What does "levees" mean in this paragraph quoted from The Three Musketeers (chapeter II, Penguin, translated by Richard Pevear)? Checked dictionaries and googled but I am still confused.

Louis XIV absorbed all the lesser stars of his court in his own vast radiance; but his father, a sun pluribus impar,*14 allowed each of his favorites his own personal splendor, each of his courtiers his own individual worth. Besides the king’s levee and the cardinal’s, they counted in Paris then more than two hundred lesser levees that were somewhat select. Among those two hundred lesser levees, that of Tréville was one of the most frequented.


1 Answer 1


The definition (from the OED) is:

A reception of visitors on rising from bed; a morning assembly held by a prince or person of distinction.

The French is:

Outre le lever du roi et celui du cardinal, on comptait alors à Paris plus de deux cents petits levers, un peu recherchés. Parmi les deux cents petits levers celui de Tréville était un des plus courus.

In addition to the king's and the cardinal's levees, there were then in Paris more than two hundred small levees that were somewhat sought after. Among the two hundred small levees, Tréville's was one of the most popular.

— Translation due to DeepL, Google Translate, and me.

And Wiktionary says lever means

the act of getting up in the morning.

In France, the king's leveele lever du roi, the ceremony of the king getting out of bed in the morning — was a big deal, and it was quite an achievement to be invited to attend it. See Wikipedia. According to this passage, some other noblemen, for example Tréville, also held their own levees. For Tréville's levee, I don't know whether it actually included the act of Tréville getting out of bed, or whether it was just the name for a morning gathering.

  • It was considered a privilege to be present for what we would now consider intimate or even private moments in the King's daily activities. Attending the levee might also allow one to speak and influence political affairs.
    – Bee
    Nov 15, 2022 at 8:31
  • 3
    Phew. The only place I ever heard that word was in the song "When the levee breaks", which is not the same meaning for sure. ;) Learned something, again.
    – AnoE
    Nov 15, 2022 at 13:00
  • 7
    Huh. So the practice of daily standup held by a powerful program manager is quite old ...
    – davidbak
    Nov 15, 2022 at 18:50
  • 2
    @AnoE - but both noun meanings of levee have the same French root meaning "a raising". etymonline.com/search?q=levee Nov 15, 2022 at 20:25
  • @AnoE: And King Louis the XIV didn't have any drummer to compare to John Bonham.
    – Lee Mosher
    Nov 16, 2022 at 3:16

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