eþsöre (OSw) ezöre (OSw) noun

Literally, ‘oath swearing’ (a compound of eþer ‘oath’ and form of sværia ‘swear’). This can refer prosaically to the swearing of any oath. More frequently it refers to the oath sworn by the king of Sweden and his highest nobility to uphold the law of the land (the ‘rule of law’), to keep civil order in the kingdom and to protect the rights of the common people to peace and protection, particularly in respect of certain grave crimes, which they had agreed upon. The crown, in return, took a portion of any fine payable in respect of such crimes. This oath first came into force in the time of Birger (often given the soubriquet jarl) (d. 1266) and his son, King Magnus Birgersson (Ladulås) (1240−90), and is interpreted as the King’s Oath [of Peace], or simply the King’s Peace, sworn at the king’s coronation. It was the king’s promise to uphold peace in the realm and anyone who went against that consequently became the enemy of the king personally. This is laid out in the foreword to UL.

The word eþsöre is also used as an abbreviation for eþsörisbrut, ‘crime against the King’s Peace’, or for the penalty for such crimes, eþsörisböter. In addition to a fine, frequently consisting of his entire movables, the perpetrator was usually exiled from the kingdom, rather than just the province. If the plaintiff or the family of the injured party pleaded on behalf of the exiled person, then, according to, for example, UL Kgb 9, VmL Kgb 6 and ÖgL Eb 10, they could be ‘returned under the King’s Peace’ against a sum of 40 marker being paid to the crown.

Originally, breach of the King’s peace was such a crime as was considered to be against the realm as a whole, which effectively made the king your personal enemy, and with fines payable to the king rather than the local community or the injured party. The intention or consequence was that personal vendetta was discouraged and the power of the crown increased, leading eventually to the establishment of kingdom-wide rather than provincial law. It was limited to very serious offences (murder, rape, illegal revenge, etc.), as exhibited in the Nordic laws. Such crimes were elsewhere designated niþingsværk (q.v.) or urbotamal (q.v.). These terms appear only occasionally in the law texts that have statutes covering eþsöre. It is clear from some of the statutes that women were not treated in the same way as men if they committed the equivalent crimes — banishment was in several laws specifically excluded as a punishment applicable to women.

It is worth noting that eþsöre is not mentioned in ÄVgL nor in GL. In the latter, the king is not referred to at all, even though he is mentioned in GS in the context of the levy and trade. In ÄVgL, the concept of urbotamal might be considered a parallel covering the same group of crimes, but there is no equivalent concept in GL.

{eþsöre} OSw HL Kgb
book on the king’s peace OSw KrL DbI DbII

breach of the king’s peace and protection OSw MEL Rb
breach of the king’s sworn peace OSw ÖgL Rb
OSw SdmL Kgb

fine from a breach of the king’s peace OSw MEL Eb
King’s Oath OSw UL Kgb
OSw VmL För, Kgb

King’s Peace OSw HL Kgb
OSw KrL Gb
OSw UL För, Kkb, Kgb, Rb
OSw VmL Kgb

king’s sworn peace OSw BjR
OSw MESt SmbI Tb
OSw SdmL Kgb

oath-confirmed legislation OSw YVgL Frb, Urb, Add
oath-taking OSw ÖgL Rb
peace OSw KrL DbI

sworn peace OSw ÖgL Kkb, Db
sworn peace day OSw ÖgL Kkb
the king’s peace OSw KrL Kgb Eb


kunungs eþsöre (OSw)

book concerning the king’s oath OSw DL Eb

breach of the king’s peace OSw HL Kgb

crime against the king’s peace OSw DL Eb

crimes against the king’s oath of peace OSw DL Eb

edsöre of the king OSw YVgL Urb, Add

king’s peace OSw DL Eb UL Rb

king’s sworn peace OSw BjR ÖgL Eb, Db

violations of the king’s peace OSw HL Kgb


Ekholst 2009, 59−66; KLNM, s.v. konungs edsöre; Schlyter 1877, s.v. eþsöre; von See 1964, 56−57; SL DL, 25−26; SL UL, 54 note 15

  • ‘eþsöre’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/1072