When Richard Brandon, Executioner for the City of London refused involvement in the execution, emissaries were sent to Ireland, Scotland and Wales in search of a volunteer. There is much speculation about the masked executioner – it is thought that Richard Gunning of Co Galway carried out the execution – however, it is more likely that the man behind the mask who wielded the axe was, in fact, one of Oliver Cromwell’s most loyal and trusted henchmen, Col. Peter Stubbers.
The Kings Head dates back over 800 years with research showing the building in existence since the 13th century. The building was the home of the Mayor of Galway, Thomas Lynch Fitz-Ambrose.
Following the execution of the King of England Charles I on 30 January 1649, Cromwell’s army came to Ireland to assert their authority. Led by one of Cromwell’s most loyal and trusted henchmen, Col. Peter Stubbers, they laid siege to Galway.
After Galway’s surrender in April 1653, Stubbers became the town’s military Governor and when the Mayor and Corporation objected to the outrages being perpetrated on the citizens of Galway they were forcibly removed from office in 1654. To add insult to injury, Stubbers not only replaced Lynch Fitz-Ambrose as Mayor, but also seized his splendid house on High Street, now home to The Kings Head Pub.
When Richard Brandon, Executioner for the City of London refused involvement in the execution, emissaries were sent to Ireland, Scotland and Wales in search of a volunteer. Stubbers’ neighbour to the rear of 15 High Street was the executioner “prime suspect” Richard Gunning. Legend had it that Gunning was given the property as payment for his part in the execution of King Charles I – the ‘Price of Royal Blood’. Unmasking the Executioner Legend has it Gunning was heard to boast in the Taverns of Galway that his arm “had felt the muscles on the neck of the King of England” but it’s more likely that the man behind the mask who wielded the axe was in fact, Stubbers.
Research by Galway historian Jackie Uí Chionna directly links Stubbers to the execution of the King. Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Charles II introduced the Act of Indemnity that pardoned those who conspired against his father. However, he specifically exempted Stubbers from this ‘pardon’ and this, along with his ‘swift exit and subsequent disappearance’, makes it extremely likely that he had a real case to answer. A case, then, of ‘right legend, wrong man!’ Recent Discovery while conducting research in Oxford University in England in 2011, Jackie Ui Chionna discovered exciting new evidence. A document in the Bodleian Library there appears to confirm Stubbers involvement in the Execution of Charles I. A letter hand written by King Charles II identifies Stubbers as ‘a Halberdier (an axeman), that assisted at that execrable murder of our Royal Father.’
From Mayors to Executioners the building’s rich history lives on in ‘The Kings Head Pub’.