Bend (Bande)


Sample Bends from A Complete Guide to Heradlry.

In heraldry a Charge is an object placed upon a coat of arms. Pretty much anything that is a noun might find its way into armory. Some few charges are common, while exotic charges may only occur once or twice in 100,000 coats of arms. Many charges have special rules about their use and unusual considerations about their placement and way they are drawn. In an effort to help students of heraldry better understand how the Bend is used in heraldry, I have included remarks about the Bend from several of the most prominent heraldic scholars:

Bend (Bande): The bend is an honourable ordinary, formed by two diagonal lines drawn from the dexter chief to the sinister base, and contains the fifth part of the field if uncharged; but if charged with other figures, the third part of the field.. The Bend is often met with in the arms of Europe. The picture of Bend above is Sample Bends from A Complete Guide to Heradlry..

A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (1894) states:

Bend, (fr. bande): the bend dexter is perhaps one of the most frequently used of Ordinaries, q.v., being a straight piece extending from the dexter corner to the opposite edge of the shield. It is said to derive its origin from the belt, baudrick or baldrick(Baltheus, Cingulum militare), which was once a mark of knighthood; other heralds, however, have seen in it the idea of a scaling-ladder. According to Leigh and other heraldic writers, the bend should occupy one-third of the field when charged, and one-fifth when plain. In English arms the bend is always placed straight athwart the shield, and never bowed as in foreign arms: at the same time, in some late MSS. it is fancifully drawn with a curve, in order to represent the convexity of the shield.

A bend is very frequently subjected to a modification of its margin, and is engrailed, invected, indented, embattled, counter-embattled, bretessed, raguly, champaine(or warriated), nebuly, wavy; also bevilled, cotticed and fimbriated, all of which terms will be found explained.

A bend is also frequently charged with various devices, and when charged upon the upper part this should be noticed, because when a bend is simply described as charged, it signifies it is so on the centre or fesse-point. All charges placed upon a bend, in bend, or between cottices, must stand bendwise, not perpendicularly. Even the furs follow this rule, although generally upright on all other ordinaries. Illustrations of bends besides those given in the present article will be found under compony, cottised, embowed, engrailed, fleury, pierced, raguly, wavy, and also bearing such charges as magnet, mullet, spear, wyvern, &c.

Bend archy, or bowed or embowed(q.v.), not found in English arms, only in the Continent, and more frequently in German arms; an example may be seen in the Crown of Rue, q.v.

Bend debruised, or fracted, otherwise dauncet, or downset: various forms are inserted in English heraldic books, but it may be questioned whether the old ‘dancetty’ was not quite distinct from the idea of the barbarous term downset.

A bend may be composed of charges placed bendwise, e.g.

In bend is a term used when bearings are placed bendwise.

Per bend: see Party.

The diminutives of the bend are the bendlet, garter, or gartier, which is half width, the coat or cottice which is one-fourth, and the riband which is one-eighth.

A.C. Fox-Davies noted about the Bend on page 111–115 of his masterwork, A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909):

The bend is a broad band going from the dexter chief corner to the sinister base (Fig. 65). According to the old theorists this should contain the third part of the field. As a matter of fact it hardly ever does, and seldom did even in the oldest examples. Great latitude is allowed to the artist on this point, in accordance with whether the bend be plain or charged, and more particularly according to the charges which accompany it in the shield and their disposition thereupon.

“Azure, a bend or,” is the well-known coat concerning which the historic controversy was waged between Scrope and Grosvenor. As every one knows, it was finally adjudged to belong to the former, and a right to it has also been proved by the Cornish family of Carminow.

A bend is, of course, subject to the usual variations of the lines of partition (Figs. 66-75).

A bend compony (Fig. 76), will be found in the arms of Beaumont, and the difference between this (in which the panes run with the bend) and a bend barry (in which the panes are horizontal, Fig. 77), as in the arms of King,[7] should be noticed.

A bend wavy is not very usual, but will be found in the arms of Wallop, De Burton, and Conder. A bend raguly appears in the arms of Strangman.

When a bend and a bordure appear upon the same arms, the bend is not continued over the bordure, and similarly it does not surmount a tressure (Fig. 78), but stops within it.


A bend upon a bend is by no means unusual. An example of this will be found in a coat of Waller. Cases where this happens need to be carefully scrutinised to avoid error in blazoning.

A bend lozengy, or of lozenges (Fig. 79), will be found in the arms of Bolding.

A bend flory and counterflory will be found in the arms of Fellows, a quartering of Tweedy.

A bend chequy will be found in the arms of Menteith, and it should be noticed that the checks run the way of the bend.

Ermine spots upon a bend are represented the way of the bend.

Occasionally two bends will be found, as in the arms of Lever: Argent, two bends sable, the upper one engrailed (vide Lyon Register—escutcheon of pretence on the arms of Goldie-Scot of Craigmore, 1868); or as in the arms of James Ford, of Montrose, 1804: Gules, two bends vairé argent and sable, on a chief or, a greyhound courant sable between two towers gules. A different form appears in the arms of Zorke or Yorke (see Papworth), which are blazoned: Azure, a bend argent, impaling argent, a bend azure. A solitary instance of three bends (which, however, effectually proves that a bend cannot occupy the third part of the field) occurs in the arms of Penrose, matriculated in Lyon Register in 1795 as a quartering of Cumming-Gordon of Altyre. These arms of Penrose are: Argent, three bends sable, each charged with as many roses of the field.

A charge half the width of a bend is a bendlet (Fig. 80), and one half the width of a bendlet is a cottise (Fig. 81), but a cottise cannot exist alone, inasmuch as it has of itself neither direction nor position, but is only found accompanying one of the ordinaries. The arms of Harley are an example of a bend cottised.


Bendlets will very seldom be found either in addition to a bend, or charged, but the arms of Vaile show both these peculiarities.

A bend will usually be found between two charges. Occasionally it will be found between four, but more frequently between six. In none of these cases is it necessary to specify the position of the subsidiary charges. It is presumed that the bend separates them into even numbers, but their exact position (beyond this) upon the shield is left to the judgment of the artist, and their disposition is governed by the space left available by the shape of the shield. A further presumption is permitted in the case of a bend between three objects, which are presumed to be two in chief and one in base. But even in the case of three the position will be usually found to be specifically stated, as would be the case with any other uneven number.

Charges on a bend are placed in the direction of the bend. In such cases it is not necessary to specify that the charges are bendwise. When a charge or charges occupy the position which a bend would, they are said to be placed “in bend.” This is not the same thing as a charge placed “bendwise” (or bendways). In this case the charge itself is slanted into the angle at which the bend crosses the shield, but the position of the charge upon the shield is not governed thereby.

When a bend and chief occur together in the same arms, the chief will usually surmount the bend, the latter issuing from the angle between the base of the chief and the side of the shield. An instance to the contrary, however, will be found in the arms of Fitz-Herbert of Swynnerton, in which the bend is continued over the chief. This instance, however (as doubtless all others of the kind), is due to the {114}use of the bend in early times as a mark of difference. The coat of arms, therefore, had an earlier and separate existence without the bend, which has been superimposed as a difference upon a previously existing coat. The use of the bend as a difference will be again referred to when considering more fully the marks and methods of indicating cadency.

A curious instance of the use of the sun’s rays in bend will be found in the arms of Warde-Aldam.[8]

The bend sinister (Fig. 82), is very frequently stated to be the mark of illegitimacy. It certainly has been so used upon some occasions, but these occasions are very few and far between, the charge more frequently made use of being the bendlet or its derivative the baton (Fig. 83). These will be treated more fully in the chapter on the marks of illegitimacy. The bend sinister, which is a band running from the sinister chief corner through the centre of the escutcheon to the dexter base, need not necessarily indicate bastardy. Naturally the popular idea which has originated and become stereotyped concerning it renders its appearance extremely rare, but in at least two cases it occurs without, as far as I am aware, carrying any such meaning. At any rate, in neither case are the coats “bastardised” versions of older arms. These cases are the arms of Shiffner: “Azure, a bend sinister, in chief two estoiles, in like bend or; in base the end and stock of an anchor gold, issuing from waves of the sea proper;” and Burne-Jones: “Azure, on a bend sinister argent, between seven mullets, four in chief and three in base or, three pairs of wings addorsed purpure.”

No coat with the chief charge a single bendlet occurs in Papworth. A single case, however, is to be found in the Lyon Register in the duly matriculated arms of Porterfield of that Ilk: “Or, a bendlet between a stag’s head erased in chief and a hunting-horn in base sable, garnished gules.” Single bendlets, however, both dexter and sinister, occur as ancient difference marks, and are then sometimes known as ribands. So described, it occurs in blazon of the arms of Abernethy: “Or, a lion rampant gules, debruised of a ribbon sable,” quartered by Lindsay, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres; but here again the bendlet is a mark of cadency. In the Gelre Armorial, in this particular coat the ribbon is made “engrailed,” which is most unusual, and which does not appear to be the accepted form. In many of the Scottish matriculations of this Abernethy coat in which this riband occurs it is termed a “cost,” doubtless another form of the word cottise.

When a bend or bendlets (or, in fact, any other charge) are raised above their natural position in the shield they are termed “enhanced” (Fig. 84). An instance of this occurs in the well-known coat of Byron, viz.: “Argent, three bendlets enhanced gules,” and in the arms of Manchester, which were based upon this coat.

When the field is composed of an even number of equal pieces divided by lines following the angle of a bend the field is blazoned “bendy” of so many (Fig. 58). In most cases it will be composed of six or eight pieces, but as there is no diminutive of “bendy,” the number must always be stated.

[7] Armorial bearings of Sir Henry Seymour King, K.C.I.E.: Quarterly, argent and azure, in the second and third quarters a quatrefoil of the first, over all a bend barry of six of the second, charged with a quatrefoil also of the first, and gules.

[8] Armorial bearings of William Warde-Aldam, Esq.: Quarterly, 1 and 4, party per fesse azure and ermine, in the sinister chief and dexter base an eagle displayed or, in the dexter canton issuant towards the sinister base seven rays, the centre one gold, the others argent (for Aldam); 2 and 3 (for Warde).

Below you can see Arms traditionally held to be those of William Shakespeare. From Wade’s The Symbolisms of Heraldry., giving another example of the use of the Bend in heraldry.


Arms traditionally held to be those of William Shakespeare. From Wade’s The Symbolisms of Heraldry.

Often the symbols or charges used in heraldry were chosen because they sound like some word that has relevance to the bearer of the arms, a name, nickname, deed or battle, a place they lived, or traveled to; this kind of use of charges is called punning or canting arms. Parker gave us the following examples, “Thus were the castle and lion for Castile and Leon, the fers de cheval of Ferrers, the corbeau or raven for Corbet, the herons of Heron, the falcon of Falconer, the swine’s head of Swinebourne, the hammers of Hammerton and the swallows (hirondelles) of Arundel.” Despite this, there are some good many “traditional” meanings for charges too. In the case of Bend it can easily be seen to represent Defense or Protection.
W. Cecil Wade collected traditional heraldry metaphors in his work The Symbolisms of Heraldry (1898). On page 49 we find information on the Bend, stating, “The Bend is also a bearing of Crest, of high honour, and probably represents either the scarf or the shield suspender of a knight or military commander. (See arms of Shakespeare.) It is held to signify Defence or Protection. It was, like most other bearings, at
first assumed by men of knightly and military rank, and it has since often been granted by the heralds to those who have distinguished themselves as commanders.”

The Bend can be found in following coats of arms:

  • William Shakespeare: Or, on a Bend Sable, a Lance of the first.
  • Baron Howard, Earl of Surrey: Gules, on the upper part of a bend between six crosses crosslet fitchy argent, an escutcheon or charged with a demi lion rampant, pierced through the mouth with an arrow, within a tressure flory counter flory gules.
  • Monsire de Ormesby: Gules, on a bend between crosses botonny argent, a mullet in the point of the bend sable—Harl. MS. 6589.
  • Robert Walrond: d’argent ung bend engrele de goules—Roll, temp. HEN. III.
  • Sire Aleyn Plokenot: de ermyn a une bende engrele de goules—Roll temp. EDW. II.
  • Sir Johan de Penzret: de goulys, a une bende batille [embattled] de argent—Roll temp. EDW. II.
  • Richard Foliott: Gules, a bend argent—Roll temp. Henry III.

See the article on Lines of Partition for more information on the likes which can modify a bend in heraldry.

For more information see the original references:

Bend is The bend is an honorable ordinary, formed by two diagonal lines drawn from the dexter chief to the sinister base, and contains the fifth part of the field if uncharged; but if charged with other figures, the third part of the field., used often in British heraldry. It traditionally represents Defense or Protection.

Originally posted 2015-02-08 14:03:59.

Lines of Partition

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