Although of illegitimate birth, Hugh De Cressingham was an important English cleric and Chief Justice of the North of England. He was made Treasurer of Scotland by Edward I in 1296, charging him to spare no expense necessary for the complete reduction of Scotland.
One of his heinous acts of governance was to order that all wool produced in Scotland (then the prime national export) was to be confiscated and sent to England.
This punitive action, aligned with the particular brand of cruelty in which he regularly indulged, made him hated above all others.
In 1297, along with Earl John de Warenne of Surrey, he led the English against Scotland's army under William Wallace, meeting at key Stirling Bridge. Prior to the battle, Cressingham went to deliver Edward’s terms of surrender to Wallace, who took great pleasure not only in laughing away his terms but humiliating him roundly. And so, to Battle.
What followed was a tactical disaster for for the English. Not only did they suffer a heavy defeat but Cressingham was unhorsed and beheaded by Wallace himself. So greatly was he loathed, that the Scots victors flayed his body, as he had flayed Scottish war prisoners. Wallace is said to have “caused a broad strip to be taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword”. There was plenty to go around, though, and many left the battlefield that day with personal de Cressingham souvenirs.
Although he died some years before Bannockburn, Cressingham earns his place in this set by the fire of hatred he did so much to fan.