Chief, (fr. chef): the first of the Ordinaries, and occupying about one-third one the shield from the top downward.
The fillet is by some considered its diminutive, while others hold that it can have none. Some English heraldic books, and most foreign, speak of instances of two chiefs, one abased below the other in the same coat, but no English examples are ever adduced.
A chief is frequently charged with other bearings, and it may be nebuly, wavy, indented, dancetty, engrailed, embattled, bevilly, &c., but it is only the lower side which is subjected to these variations.
Robert de MORTEYN BRETON, d'ermyn a la cheif de goules. Roll, temp. HEN. III.
Rauf le FITZ RANDOLF d'or ung cheif endente d'azur.--Ibid.
Sire William DABETOOT, de ermyne od le chef bende de or e de sable. Roll, temp. ED. II.
Or, a chief gules--LUMLEY, Essex.
Paly of six, argent and sable; a chief wavy azure--BURMAN.
Argent, gouty de poix; a chief nebuly gules--ROYDENHALL.
Argent, a chief dancetty azure--GLANVILE, Earl of Suffolk.
Ermine, a chief quarterly gules and or--PECKHAM. [Abp. Cant. 1219-92].
Quarterly; first and fourth argent, a cross bottonnee gules; second and third gules, three suns in splendour or; over all on a chief party per pale gules and argent, three cinquefoils counterchanged--John CHRISTOPHERSON, Bp. of Chichester, 1557-58.
Barry wavy of six, argent and azure; a chief per pale ermine and gules--BARLOWE, Derbyshire.
Barry of six, gules and or per pale counterchanged; a chief, the dexter side per bend as the first and second, the sinister, per bend sinister like the second and first; over all an escutcheon argent--HAGELEY.
Chequy gules and azure; a chief per chevron wavy of the first and or--Sir Nicholas HAUBERKES. [From Glover's Ordinary.]
Chequy azure and or; a chief per chief nebuly of the first and second--TAVESTOKE. [Ibid.]
The chief does not, as a rule, surmount other charges, and consequently such have often to be abased. The bend, for instance, starts from the dexter corner just beneath the chief. When associated with a bordure(unless there is direct statement to the contrary) the bordure would be turned and continued beneath the base line of the chief.
Gules, a chief dancetty argent within a bordure azure--BARET[or BARRATT, Sheriff of London, 1379.]
Argent, on a bend sable, three roses of the first; on chief gules three crosses patty or--CAREY, Bp. of Exeter, 1820, afterwards Bp. of S.Asaph, 1830-46.
It is contended by some writers that the chief has a diminutive, and to a figure as shewn in the margin is given the name of fillet. French heralds, however, blazon this as chef retrait, the word filet being used for a diminutive of the cotice. The word combel is also given by some English heraldic writers as meaning the same thing. It is said that the fillet does not occur at all in English arms, but perhaps the following example may be cited--
Argent, two bars and a canton gules; over all a fillet sable--BOIS or DEBOYS, 1315, Ingham Church, Norfolk.
In Chief is a term frequently used when the charges are to be placed upon the upper part of the escutcheon, and differently from their ordinary position, There are also three points(q.v.) in the escutcheon connected with the chief, viz. the dexter chief point, middle chief point, and sinister chief point.