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Ordinary (heraldry)

In heraldry, an ordinary is one of the two main types of charges, beside the mobile charges. An ordinary is a simple geometrical figure, bounded by straight lines and running from side to side or top to bottom of the shield. There are also some geometric charges known as subordinaries, which have been given lesser status by some heraldic writers, though most have been in use as long as the traditional ordinaries. Diminutives of ordinaries and some subordinaries are charges of the same shape, though thinner. Most of the ordinaries are theoretically said to occupy one-third of the shield; but this is rarely observed in practice, except when the ordinary is the only charge (as in the coat of arms of Austria).

The terms ordinary and subordinary are somewhat controversial, as they have been applied arbitrarily and inconsistently among authors, and the use of these terms has been disparaged by some leading heraldic authorities.[1] In his Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909), Arthur Charles Fox-Davies asserted that the terms are likely inventions of heraldic writers and not of heralds,[2] arguing the "utter absurdity of the necessity for any [such] classification at all," and stating that the ordinaries and sub-ordinaries are, in his mind, "no more than first charges."[3]

Types

Ordinaries

Ordinaries (sometimes called "honourable ordinaries") resemble partitions of the field, but are formally considered objects on the field. Though there is some debate as to exactly which geometrical charges—with straight edges and running from edge to edge of the shield—constitute ordinaries, certain ones are agreed on by everyone. Except for the chief they are central to the shield. Ordinaries should not be mixed with Division of the field.

• Cross: a pale and a fess of equal widths conjoined (though the cross is typically thinner than this would suggest), as in the arms of the City of London.
• Pale: a vertical stripe right down the middle of the shield. Typically 15 to 13 the width of the field.
• Fess: a horizontal stripe, as in the coat of arms of Austria. Typically 15 to 13 the height of the field.
• Bar: a narrower fess (said in theory to occupy one-fifth of the field), sometimes reckoned as an ordinary in its own right. It is rarely borne singly.
• Bend: an oblique band from the dexter chief (the bearer's upper right, viewer's upper left) to the opposite corner, as in the arms of the former grand duchy of Baden.
• Bend sinister: a bend in the opposite direction (sinister chief to dexter base).
• Chevron: two diagonal bands meeting in the centre in the form of an inverted V, or like the beams of a gable; as in the arms of Udine, Italy, or Trans, Switzerland.
• Saltire: a bend and a bend sinister both of equal widths conjoined to form a diagonal cross (×), as in the Scots national banner (often referred to simply as "the Saltire"), and also known colloquially as a St Andrew's cross.
• Chief: a horizontal band right across the top of the shield, as in the arms of the district of Lausanne (Vaud, Switzerland).
• Chief triangular begins in the corners and extends to a point that is one quarter to one third the way down the shield. It is a complex line division variant of a chief.
• Chief enarched is drawn with a concave arch
• Chief double-arched has two concavities
• Terrace in base (French: champagne, terrace; Italian campagna; German Schildfuß)
• Mount when represented in green and curved or arched, as a hill.
• Mount mounted, or Shapournet shapourned: a trimount.[4]

Ordinaries or subordinaries

The following are sometimes classed as ordinaries, sometimes as subordinaries (see below):[5]

• Bordure: the boundary of the shield; often used for cadency
• Pile: downward pointing triangle, issuing from the top of the shield
• Pall or Pairle: a Y-shape
• A variant is the shakefork: a pall cut short of the margins, with pointed ends. It is frequent in Scotland, owing to its prominence in the armoury of Clan Cunningham.

Subordinaries

Some geometric figures are not considered to be "honourable ordinaries" and are called "subordinaries". Very loosely, they are geometric or conventional charges that, unlike ordinaries, do not stretch from edge to edge of the shield. There is no definitive list or definition, but they generally include:

Fixed subordinaries

Fixed subordinaries are those that have a particular place to go on a shield—or at least a very limited range of places.

• Quarter: the dexter chief quadrant of the shield
• Canton: smaller than the quarter, formally said to occupy one-ninth of the shield, though sometimes drawn smaller, but generally accepted as a square 1/3 the width of the shield. The canton is often said to be the quarter's diminutive, but perhaps it should be treated as a subordinary in its own right as it fulfils heraldic functions not fulfilled by the quarter, and behaves according to its own special rules—as for example in the case of the canton on which baronets in the UK may display the badges of their 'rank', which is very rarely shown occupying such a large area as the upper left third of the field, and is usually much less and very often shown not as square but as a rectangle with its longer side vertical. Very occasionally a 'sinister canton' is found, on the shield's other side.
• Flaunches, always borne in pairs: a circular arc emerging out of each flank of the shield.
• Fret: interlacing bendlet, bendlet sinister and mascle.
• Gore: two arcs meeting in the fess point to form a triangular segment.
• Gyron: the lower half of a quarter cut diagonally, said to be an old charge but rare although there are modern examples (e. g. de Cluseau)
• Orle: A bordure separated from the outside of the shield. Like the bordure the orle takes on the shape of the shield or flag it is on. Although the orle's diminutive is the tressure, there are examples of "fillet orles" (orles narrower than usual). It is often said that an orle may not have other charges charged on it, but the Scots Public Register. When a number of charges are arranged as if on a bordure, they are said to be in orle or to form an orle of such charges.
• Tressure: a thinner version and hence diminutive of the orle. The most famous tressure is probably the double tressure flory counter flory in the royal coat of arms of Scotland. Tressures with other ornamentation exist, such as with maple leaves, crescents, thistles and roses.

Mobile subordinaries

Other subordinaries can be placed anywhere on the field.

• escutcheon of pretence or en surtout—When one escutcheon is borne in the centre of the coat, it is sometimes called an inescutcheon or an escutcheon of pretence or an escutcheon en surtout. Such centrally placed escutcheons usually have some particular significance. For example, in arms of dominion an inescutcheon typically shows the dynastic arms of the prince, whose possessions are shown in the quarters of the main shield; current examples include the arms of the Danish royal family, with an inescutcheon of the house of Oldenburg, and the coat of arms of Spain, with an inescutcheon of the house of Bourbon-Anjou. In Scots heraldry the escutcheon en surtout serves several different purposes. This all comes under the heading of marshalling.
• Lozenge: a rhombus with its long axis upright, resembling the diamond of playing-cards.
• Fusil: a thin lozenge; very much taller than it is wide.
• Mascle: a voided lozenge (i.e. with a largish lozenge shaped hole)
• Rustre (very rare): a lozenge pierced (i.e. with a smallish round hole)
• Roundel: a disc or ball, as in the arms of the Duchy of Cornwall or of the Medici. In the Anglophone heraldries differently coloured roundels have different names, e.g. a roundel or is called a bezant and a roundel azure is called a hurt. French heraldry solely distinguishes besants (roundels of a metal tincture) and tourteaux (roundels of a colour tincture): hence, the Canadian Francophone versions of blazons follow suit — Anglophone hurt is Francophone tourteau d'azur, and Anglophone bezant is a besant d'or
• Annulet: a voided roundel (i.e. with a largish round hole, resembling a ring)

Variations

Lines

Ordinaries need not be bounded by straight lines.

Diminutives

When a coat of arms contains two or more of an ordinary, they are nearly always blazoned (in English) as diminutives of the ordinary, as follows.

Diminutives of the pale

• pallet: theoretically half the width of a pale.
• endorse: half the width of a pallet; also found in pairs on either side of a pale when the term "endorsed" is used

Diminutives of the fess

• bar, see above.
• closet, half the width of the bar
• barrulet, narrower than both.
• hamade (also called hamaide or hummet): a bar couped which doesn't reach the edges of the shield, usually in threes

Diminutives of the bend

• bendlet, half the width of a bend.
• ribbon or riband, half the width of a bendlet, occasionally called a cost
• baton: a bendlet couped which doesn't reach the edges of the shield, often said to be only a bendlet sinister couped, but has certainly been used as a couped bendlet 'dexter' since the 17th century at the latest

Diminutive of the bend sinister

• bendlet sinister, half the width of a bend sinister, also very occasionally called a scarpe;
• baton sinister, a bendlet sinister couped

Diminutives of the chevron

• chevronel: half the width of a chevron.
• couple close: half the width of a chevronnel, but only to be found in pairs with a chevron between them; the phrase 'a chevron between two couple closes' has the alternative 'a chevron couple closed'; in essence the same as cottising a chevron; couple close is not found much in modern blazons

Diminutives of the chief

• comble, "half" a chief; rare in the Anglophone heraldries, but does appear in the civic heraldry of France—there even being at least one chief charged with a comble
• chief enhanced, again "half" a chief, sometimes said not to be a diminutive, but is indistinguishable from the comble which is.
• fillet: said, by those who do not believe in the comble or chief enhanced, to be the nearest that the chief comes to having a diminutive, which is effectively a barrulet conjoined to a chief at its bottom edge—blazoned either as 'a chief supported by a fillet' or as 'a chief filleted' (or things similar); occasionally appears in its own right—though it is then very little other than a barrulet enhanced.

Diminutive of the cross

• cross fillet (or fillet cross), somewhat less than half the width of a cross.

Diminutive of the saltire

• fillet saltire, something less than half the width of a saltire
• saltorel, is sometimes said to be a diminutive saltire, but is best thought of simply as a saltire couped, the word being sometimes used when there are three or more (rather like lioncel and eaglet were used at times when there were three or more lions or eagles in a coat)—a 19th-century armorial uses 'saltorels' only once for every ten or eleven 'saltires'. A common charge in Dutch heraldry.

Cottise and cottising

The cottise (the spelling varies—sometimes only one t and sometimes c instead of the s) originated as an alternative name to cost (see above) and so as a diminutive of the bend, most commonly found in pairs on either side of a bend, with the bend being blazoned either as between two cottises or as cottised.

Nowadays cottising is used not just for bends but for practically all the ordinaries (and occasionally collections of charges), and consists in placing the ordinary between two diminutive versions of itself (and occasionally other things). A pale so treated is usually blazoned endorsed and a chevron very occasionally couple closed or between two couple closes. A chief, however, cannot be cottised.[7]

The ordinary and its cottices need not have the same tincture or the same line ornamentation.

Ordinaries very occasionally get cottised by things shaped quite differently from their diminutives—like demi maple leaves.

Occasionally a collection of charges aligned as if on an ordinary—in bend, etc.—is accompanied by cotticing.

Voiding, surmounting with another, and fimbriation

Any type of charge, but probably most often the ordinaries and subordinaries, can be "voided"; without further description, this means that a hole in the shape of the charge reveals the field behind it. Occasionally the hole is of different tincture or shape (which must then be specified), so that the charge appears to be surcharged with a smaller charge.

Notes

1. ^ See "Chapter IX: the so-called ordinaries and sub-ordinaries" in Fox-Davies (1909) A Complete Guide to Heraldry.
2. ^ Fox-Davies (1909), pp. 106–107.
3. ^ Fox-Davies (1909), p. 107.
4. ^ "Mount" in: William Berry, Encyclopaedia Heraldica, Or Complete Dictionary of Heraldry (1828).
5. ^ "American Heraldic Society: An American Heraldic Primer". Americanheraldry.org. 26 August 2007. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
6. ^ Geometric Charges Archived 16 January 2023 at the Wayback Machine, heraldicart.org, PDF
7. ^ Mackinnon of Dunakin (1966), p. 56.

References

• Boutell, Charles (1983). Boutell's Heraldry. Revised J P Brook-Little, Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
• Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1986, first published 1904). The Art of Heraldry: An Encyclopædia of Armory London: Bloomsbury Books.
• Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1909). A Complete Guide to Heraldry. New York: Dodge Pub. Co. ISBN 0-517-26643-1. LCCN 09-23803
• Greaves, Kevin (2000). A Canadian Heraldic Primer. Ottawa: The Heraldry Society of Canada. ISBN 0-9693063-4-2. LCCN 2001-326695
• Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Lord Lyon King of Arms (1978). Scots Heraldry. Revised Malcolm R Innes of Edingight, Marchmont Herald. London and Edinburgh: Johnston and Bacon. LCCN 79-306835
• Mackinnon of Dunakin, Charles (1966). The Observer's Book of Heraldry. London: Frederick Warne.
• Nisbet, Alexander (1984, first published 1722). A system of heraldry. Edinburgh: T & A Constable.
• Sir James Balfour Paul, Lord Lyon King of Arms (1969, first published 1903). An Ordinary of Arms Contained in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland (2nd edition, paperback reprint). Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.
• David Reid of Robertland and Vivien Wilson (1977). An Ordinary of Arms, volume 2 [1902-1973]. Edinburgh: Lyon Office.
• Urquhart, R M (1979). Scottish Civic Heraldry: Regional - Islands - District. London: Heraldry Today. ISBN 0-900455-26-8. LCCN 80-467758
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