150px, The shield above, which is the arms of Menzies, depicts a red chief placed on a silver shield, and its blazon is ''Argent, a chief gules.'' In heraldic
blazon In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image. The verb ''to blazon'' means to create such a description. The visual ...
, a chief is a charge on a
coat of arms A coat of arms is a heraldry, heraldic communication design, visual design on an escutcheon (heraldry), escutcheon (i.e., shield), surcoat, or tabard. The coat of arms on an escutcheon forms the central element of the full achievement (herald ...
that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the top edge of the shield. Writers disagree in how much of the shield's surface is to be covered by the chief, ranging from one-fourth to one-third. The former is more likely if the chief is ''uncharged'', that is, if it does not have other objects placed on it. If ''charged'', the chief is typically wider to allow room for the objects drawn there. The chief is one of the ordinaries in heraldry, along with the bend, chevron,
, and pale. There are several other ordinaries and sub-ordinaries.

Variations of chief

The chief may bear charges and may also be subject to variations of the partition lines. It cannot, however, be ''cotised''. The chief may be combined with another ordinary, such as a pale or a saltire, but is almost never surmounted by another ordinary. The chief will normally be superimposed over a bordure, orle and tressure, if they share the same shield. File:Chef-pal.png, A chief combined with a pale. File:Armoiries de Wiltz 4.svg, A chief bearing charges (two scallops). File:Blason ville be Fernelmont (Namur).svg, A chief indented (
Fernelmont Fernelmont (; wa, Ferneamont) is a Walloon municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regio ...
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the s ...
). File:Blason ville fr Brinon-sur-Beuvron.svg, A chief wavy ( Brinon-sur-Beuvron,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and Overseas France, several overseas regions and territories. The metro ...
). File:Blason Baudouin de Béthunes.svg, Rare example of a chief that occupies half the shield. File:Armoiries de Wolckrange 1.svg, A chief fretty (Wolkrange, Belgium). File:Armoiries de Sampigny.svg, Rare example of a chief surmounted by another ordinary (a chevron) ( Sampigny,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and Overseas France, several overseas regions and territories. The metro ...
). File:Etoncollegearms.svg, A chief impaled (Eton College).

Other variations

In some medieval and Renaissance drawings of coats of arms, the chief is drawn even deeper, so that it fills almost all the top half of the shield. In some cases, it is drawn so wide that it will look as though the shield is divided heraldry#Divisions of the field, party per fess. There is a diminutive (heraldry), diminutive version of the chief, called a comble, but this does not occur in English and Scottish heraldry. A chief triangular can be found in French and English armory. This ordinary 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. A chief enarched is drawn with a concave arch. There is also a double-arched version of a chief. The chief can be used as a mark of cadency, in order to difference the coat of arms in a minor line of a family, though this is rare and practically confined to cases in which a system of bordures is the usual method of showing cadency and the undifferenced coat of the family already has a bordure. In civic heraldry, a chief of allegiance may be added to the top of the shield, particularly in Germany, German heraldry. This is a form of the ruling state's armory compressed into the space of a chief.

In Italy

In Italy, chiefs are added to the coats of arms of families or locales to indicate political orientation. For example, many Italian coats of arms have a chief containing a version of the arms of the Kingdom of Naples or of the Holy Roman Empire, to denote Guelphs and Ghibellines, Guelph or Ghibelline alignment respectively. More recently, a chief ''gules'' charged with a fasces, called the Chief of the Lictor, indicated allegiance to the National Fascist Party; it was no longer in use by 1945.


*A C Fox-Davies ''A Complete Guide to Heraldry'' (revised by J P Brooke-Little, Richmond Herald), Thomas Nelson and Sons, London 1969 {{blazon Heraldic ordinaries fr:Liste de pièces héraldiques#Chef