Pale (heraldry)

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Argent a pale gules

A pale is a term used in heraldic blazon and vexillology to describe a charge on a coat of arms (or flag), that takes the form of a band running vertically down the centre of the shield. Writers broadly agree that the width of the pale ranges from about one-fifth to about one-third of the width of the shield, but this width is not fixed. A narrow pale is more likely if it is uncharged, that is, if it does not have other objects placed on it. If charged, the pale is typically wider to allow room for the objects drawn there.

Heraldry profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol

Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on an shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.

Blazon art of describing heraldic arms in proper terms

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 depiction of a coat of arms or flag has traditionally had considerable latitude in design, but a verbal blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements. A coat of arms or flag is therefore primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon. Blazon also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description. This language has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms.

Vexillology study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags

Vexillology is the study of the history, symbolism and usage of flags or, by extension, any interest in flags in general. The word is a synthesis of the Latin word vexillum ("flag") and the Greek suffix -logia ("study").

Contents

The pale is one of the ordinaries in heraldry, along with the bend, chevron, fess, and chief. There are several other ordinaries and sub-ordinaries.

Ordinary (heraldry) basic geometric charge in heraldry

In heraldry, 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.

Bend (heraldry) heraldic ordinary

In heraldry, a bend is a band or strap running from the upper dexter corner of the shield to the lower sinister. Authorities differ as to how much of the field it should cover, ranging from one-fifth up to one-third. The supposed rule that a bend should occupy a maximum of one-third of the field appears to exclude the possibility of three bends being shown together, but contrary examples exist. Outside heraldry, the term "bend sinister" is sometimes used to imply illegitimacy, though it is almost never true that a bend sinister has this significance, and a "bar sinister" cannot, by its nature, exist.

Chevron (insignia) V-shaped insignia used in various fields

A chevron is a V-shaped mark, often inverted. The word is usually used in reference to a kind of fret in architecture, or to a badge or insignia used in military or police uniforms to indicate rank or length of service, or in heraldry and the designs of flags.

The word pale originally referred to a picket (a piece of wood much taller than it is wide such as is used to build a picket fence) and it is from the resemblance to this that the heraldic pale derives its name.

Picket fence domestic boundary of evenly spaced vertical boards attached to a horizontal rail

Picket fences are a type of fence often used decoratively for domestic boundaries, distinguished by their evenly spaced vertical boards, the pickets, attached to horizontal rails. Picket fences are particularly popular in the United States, with the white picket fence coming to symbolize the ideal middle-class suburban life. Until the introduction of advertising in the 1980s, cricket fields were usually surrounded by picket fences.

Derived terms

pallet
In British heraldry when two or more pales appear on a field, they are conventionally termed pallets. While a pallet is generally classified as a diminutive of the pale, the pallets on a shield of two pallets may be no narrower than the pale on another where it has been narrowed to accommodate other charges on either side.
paly
A shield with numerous pales may be termed paly, especially in early heraldry, though this term is now properly reserved to describe a variation of the field.
in pale
In pale refers to the appearance of several items on the shield being lined up in the direction of a pale.
palewise
A charge palewise is vertical like a pale.
party per pale
A shield party per pale is divided into two parts by a single line which runs in the direction of a pale.

Special cases

A pale may be couped ("cut off" at either end, and so not reaching the top or bottom of the shield); however, while other charges if couped at the top would just be blazoned as "couped in chief," the special term for this in the case of the pale is "a pale retrait" (this also applies to pallets; see below). If couped at the bottom it is blazoned as "a pale retrait in base".

Charge (heraldry) heraldic motif; an ordinary, common charge or symbol

In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device. In French blazon, the ordinaries are called pièces while other charges are called meubles.

The Canadian pale, invented by George Stanley for the flag of Canada, occupies fully half the field. On a 1:2 flag such as Canada's, it is square. The name was suggested by Sir Conrad Swan, and used when Elizabeth II of Canada proclaimed the new flag on 28 January 1965. [1]

Canadian pale triband flag where the centre band is wider than the outter bands

In heraldry and vexillology, a Canadian pale is a centre band of a vertical triband flag that covers half the length of a flag, rather than a third as in most triband designs. This allows more space to display a central image. The name was suggested by George Stanley, and first used by Elizabeth II of Canada proclaiming the new Canadian flag on 28 January 1965. Properly, the term should only apply to Canadian flags, though in general use the term is also used to describe non-Canadian flags that have similar proportions.

George Stanley Canadian historian

Colonel George Francis Gillman Stanley,, DPhil, DLitt, FRHSC (hon.) was a Canadian historian, author, soldier, teacher, public servant, and designer of the current Canadian flag.

Flag of Canada national flag of Canada

The flag of Canada, often referred to as the Canadian flag, or unofficially as the Maple Leaf and l'Unifolié, is a national flag consisting of a red field with a white square at its centre in the ratio of 1:2:1, in the middle of which is featured a stylized, red, 11-pointed maple leaf charged in the centre. It is the first specified by law for use as the country's national flag.

Related Research Articles

Flag terminology is the nomenclature, or system of terms, used in vexillology, the study of flags, to describe precisely the parts, patterns, and other attributes of flags and their display.

Mantling

In heraldry, mantling or lambrequin is drapery tied to the helmet above the shield. In paper heraldry it is a depiction of the protective cloth covering worn by knights from their helmets to stave off the elements, and, secondarily, to decrease the effects of sword-blows against the helmet in battle, from which it is usually shown tattered or cut to shreds; less often it is shown as an intact drape, principally in those cases where clergy use a helmet and mantling, although this is usually the artist's discretion and done for decorative rather than symbolic reasons.

Division of the field section of the field on an escutcheon

In heraldry, the field (background) of a shield can be divided into more than one area, or subdivision, of different tinctures, usually following the lines of one of the ordinaries and carrying its name. Shields may be divided this way for differencing or for purposes of marshalling, or simply for style. The lines that divide a shield may not always be straight, and there is a system of terminology for describing patterned lines, which is also shared with the heraldic ordinaries. French heraldry takes a different approach in many cases from the one described in this article.

The lines of partition used to divide and vary fields and charges in heraldry are by default straight, but may have many different shapes. Care must sometimes be taken to distinguish these types of lines from the extremely unusual and non-traditional use of lines as charges, and to distinguish these shapes from actual charges, such as "a mount [or triple mount] in base," or, particularly in German heraldry, different kinds of embattled from castle walls.

Variation of the field heraldic term

In heraldry, variations of the field are any of a number of ways that a field may be covered with a pattern, rather than a flat tincture or a simple division of the field.

Fess heraldry

In heraldry, a fess or fesse is a charge on a coat of arms that takes the form of a band running horizontally across the centre of the shield. Writers disagree in how much of the shield's surface is to be covered by a fess or other ordinary, ranging from one-fifth to one-third. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry states that earlier writers including Leigh, Holme, and Guillim favour one-third, while later writers such as Edmondson favour one-fifth "on the grounds that a bend, pale, or chevron occupying one-third of the field makes the coat look clumsy and disagreeable." A fess is likely to be shown narrower if it is uncharged, that is, if it does not have other charges placed on it, and/or if it is to be shown with charges above and below it; and shown wider if charged. The fess or bar, termed fasce in French heraldry, should not be confused with fasces.

Lozenge (heraldry) heraldic charge

The lozenge in heraldry is a diamond-shaped charge, usually somewhat narrower than it is tall. It is to be distinguished in modern heraldry from the fusil, which is like the lozenge but narrower, though the distinction has not always been as fine and is not always observed even today. A mascle is a voided lozenge—that is, a lozenge with a lozenge-shaped hole in the middle—and the rarer rustre is a lozenge containing a circular hole in the centre. A field covered in a pattern of lozenges is described as lozengy; similar fields of mascles are masculy, and fusils, fusily. In civic heraldry, a lozenge sable is often used in coal-mining communities to represent a lump of coal.

Chief (heraldry) ordinary in heraldic blazon; horizontal band at the top of a coat of arms

In heraldic blazon, a chief is a charge on a coat of arms 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.

Rule of tincture rule of color composition

The most basic rule of heraldic design is the rule of tincture: metal should not be put on metal, nor colour on colour. This means that Or and argent may not be placed on each other; nor may any of the colours be placed on another colour. Heraldic furs as well as "proper" are exceptions to the rule of tincture.

Niagara Herald Extraordinary

Niagara Herald of Arms Extraordinary is the title of one of the officers of arms at the Canadian Heraldic Authority in Ottawa. Herald Extraordinary is an honorary position reserved for people who have made notable contributions to Canadian heraldry. Like the other heralds at the Authority, the name is derived from the Canadian river of the same name.

Attitude (heraldry) orientation and pose of a creature in heraldry

In heraldry, an attitude is the position in which an animal, bird, fish, human or human-like being is emblazoned as a charge, supporter or crest. Many attitudes apply only to predatory beasts and are exemplified by the beast most frequently found in heraldry—the lion. Some other terms apply only to docile animals, such as the doe. Other attitudes, such as volant, describe the positions of birds, mostly exemplified by the bird most frequently found in heraldry—the eagle. The term naiant (swimming), however, is usually reserved for fish but may also apply to swans, ducks or geese. Birds are often further described by the exact position of their wings. The term segreant is usually applied to the griffin, but this approximation of rampant which is more appropriate for them has also been applied to the dragon.

Pile (heraldry) heraldic charge

In heraldry, a pile is a charge usually counted as one of the ordinaries. It consists of a wedge emerging from the upper edge of the shield and converging to a point near the base. If it touches the base, it is blazoned throughout.

Bar (heraldry) ordinary consisting of a horizontal band across the shield in heraldry

In heraldry, a bar is an ordinary consisting of a horizontal band across the shield. If only one bar appears across the middle of the shield, it is termed a fess; if two or more appear, they can only be called bars. Calling the bar a diminutive of the fess is inaccurate, however, because two bars may each be no smaller than a fess. Like the fess, bars too may bear complex lines. The diminutive form of the bar is the barrulet, though these frequently appear in pairs, the pair termed a "bar gemel" rather than "two barrulets".

References

  1. Kibbe, Stephen, ed. (September 2006). "Did you know...?" (PDF). The Seaxe (PDF). Middlesex Heraldry Society (52): 12. This in turn credits A King in Canada, by Conrad Swan, pp. 242–247.