Division of the field

Divisions of the field is a heraldic term referring to the pattern on a shield. The field of a shield in heraldry can be divided into more than one tincture (as can the various charges). The divisions are (almost without exception) named according to the ordinary that shares their shape. (It should be noticed that French heraldry takes a different approach in many cases from the one described in this article.)

Common partitions of the field are:

  • parted (or party) per fess (parted horizontally),
  • party per pale (parted vertically),
  • party per bend (diagonally from upper left to lower right),
  • party per bend sinister (diagonally from upper right to lower left)
  • party per saltire (diagonally both ways).
  • party per cross or quarterly (divided into four quarters)
  • party per chevron (after the manner of a chevron)
  • party per pall/ pairle (diagonal divisions from upper left and upper right meeting vertical division)

A field cannot be divided per bordure (as if this did exist it would be indistinguishable from the bordure); though a bordure can. Neither can a field (nor any charge) be divided per chief, for similar reasons - on the whole, but both Canadian and Scottish Public Registers have 'official' records of fields or bordures divided 'per chief' and the Scottish PR' s earliest is before 1677, "parted per chief azur and gules three skenes argent hefted and pomelled Or Surmounted of as many Woolf-heads couped of the third", Skene of Newtyle, vol 1, p 417 (and some of the Canadian Public Register can be searched on line)

A shield vertically divided into blue (left side) and gold (right side) would be blazoned: Per pale azure and Or.

The arms of Lenguazaque, Cundinamarca, Colombia are per fess, and said to be divided by a line, but this is generally regarded as unheraldic.

The arms of the former Republic of Bophuthatswana were "per fess (at nombril point)" (lower than the regular per fess division; the "nombril point" is halfway between the fess point — the exact middle of the field — and the base point, at the bottom centre of the field).

An anomalous, and perhaps not in accordance with the rules of heraldry, example of per fess with the upper part occupying one-sixth of the field, occurs in the arms of Yarumal, Antioquia, Colombia

The arms of the French department of Côtes d'Armor show émanché, which is shown in this case as equivalent to the English per fess dancetty of two full points upwards.

The arms of Novohrad-Volyns'kyi, Ukraine, show a unique form of quarterly.

When a field is quartered in a swastika-like pattern, this is called quarterly en equerre. Use of a swastika-like form in heraldry is called the fylfot and long predates any fascist associations.

German heraldry, unlike British, acknowledges the form per bend... broken in the form of a linden leaf.

The arms of Mpumalanga Province in South Africa show per bend sinister, inclined in the flanks per fess.

The arms of the White Workers Union in South Africa are blazoned Per chevron inverted extended Argent and Gules, in chief a pile Sable charged with two chevronels respectively Argent and Or.

There can also be party per chevron reversed, which is like party per chevron except upside down. Party per chevron reversed throughout (with the point reaching to the very bottom of the shield) is sometimes referred to as chaussee.

Although it is alleged that per chevron enhanced (with the division occurring higher than it normally would) is called mantled in English, the least that can be said about this is that is a term of far from frequent application.

Shields may also be divided into three parts: this is called tierced, as in tierced per pale, azure, argent and gules (though perhaps in English heraldry this is rarely if ever done and the foregoing shield would be blazoned [as the pale is supposed to be one-third of the width of the field and is always so depicted under these circumstances] per pale azure and gules, a pale argent. but Scottish heraldry does use 'tierced in pale' , e.g. Clackmannan county and as a successor modern Clackmannanshire has "Or; a saltire gules; a chief tierced in pale vert, argent, vert ...", vol 27, p 32 for the original) A particular type of tiercing, resembling a Y in shape (division lines per bend and bend sinister coming down from the chief, meeting at the fess point, and continuing down per pale), is called per pall/ pairle.

Shields may also be divided into three parts by a combination of two methods of division, such as party per fess, in chief per pale. Another example is in the arms of Clive Cheesman: per pale and per pall.

The coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI is "tierced in mantle" - as described in Vatican information pages, but the usual blazon term in, for example South African heraldry, is chapé, which may be blazoned with three colours or just two.

A field pily, as in the arms of Baron Marks of Broughton, is similar to a field per fess dancetty, except that the teeth are much more exaggerated.

The division line may be of any of the different line shapes.

Sometimes the division of the field may be fimbriated or (perhaps less properly) edged of another tincture, or divided by some ordinary or its diminutive. The latter differs from a party field that then bears an ordinary in that if the ordinary is between charges the charges are not overlapped by the ordinary but the ordinary is between them.

When the term rompu is applied to a division of the field, the result will take a number of different forms depending on the manner of division. The arms of the Hon. Lois Hole show Per chevron rompu Or and Vert, the centre section heightened of two points. (Rompu can also sometimes be applied to "common charges.")

One division of the field (though it is described by some as a charge) is restricted to the chief: when the chief is divided by a bow-shaped line, this is called chaperonnet.

See also


  • Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 105th edition.
  • Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, The Art of Heraldry: An Encyclopædia of Armory (Benjamin Blom: London, 1904), p62

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