Originally, bearers of coats of arms were knights who could be called up for military duty. A knight’s rank was not readily apparent from his shield. In the reign of Edward I. the heraldry of these individuals does not appear to have been any different from that of their social superiors. King Edward's three lions passant guardant or on a field of gules (three gold lions, down on all fours on a red shield) was no more elaborate (or simple) than his enemy, William Wallace's gules, a lion rampant argent (red, with a white lion up on its hind legs), or Robert the Bruce's saltire and chief of gules on a field of argent (a white shield bearing a large yellow Saint Andrew's cross, with a yellow band across the top).
The Rolls of Arms, which were painstakingly created by the Heralds of the time, were long narrow strips of parchment, on which were written lists of the names and titles of the knights and squires as well as full descriptions of their armorial insignia. The exact circumstances under which the rolls were created is unknown, but the accuracy and veracity of them has been proven beyond doubt by careful and repeated comparison with seals and other documents from the time period. It is obvious from the similarity in description between the rolls that the early Heralds from the time of Edward I had framed some system for the regulation of their work, and this is what raised their art form to a science.. The Heralds of the time had decided upon certain terms and rules for describing heraldic devices and figures, and had established laws to direct the granting, the assuming, and the bearing of arms.