gælkare (OSw) gjaldkyri (ON) giælkyræ (OSw) gælkere (ODan) noun

The king’s treasurer or steward. The gjaldkyri has been suggested as a Nordic equivalent of the Lat. præfectus urbis or exactor or a justice of the peace in medieval England. The gjaldkyri appears in Scandinavia from the twelfth century, most frequently in Norway. The term itself possibly of foreign origin, though it might also be a combination of ON gjald ‘payment’ and -keri/-kyri from ON kjósa in the sense of ‘to acquire’.

The gjaldkyri was in charge of city affairs and served as the king’s agent in market towns (ON kaupangar, see köpunger), where he was responsible for collecting fees, maintaining order and the administration of justice. According to Bj and Morkinskinna, the gjaldkyri was also obligated to collect land dues (ON landeyrir, see landaurar), had to report news from a legal assembly (ON lögþing, see laghþing) and declared outlaws. He may have had an obligation to jail criminals and to assign members of the night watch. A gjaldkyri might have been synonymous with a sýslumaðr (see sysluman), or at least the two seem to have worked together closely. Following amendments during the late thirteenth century, the gjaldkyri was one of the few men permitted to bear arms in a city. The Swedish gælkare in VmL appears to have had the same responsibilities as the Norwegian gjaldkyri. The rarely attested Danish gælkere probably initially held these duties as well before eventually receiving an expanded set of powers as the king’s governor of Skåne. In SkBL the gælkere only appears when detaining thieves for a fee (see julepænning, paskapænningar).

In Norway the gjaldkyri was initially elected by the population of a city, but he was later joined by the sýslumaðr and lögmaðr (see laghmaþer), all appointed by the king. These three, along with the councilmen (ON ráðsmenn, see raþman) made up the city council. After the fourteenth century they were gradually replaced by the foguti (in Norway: byfogd), an official borrowed from the German administrative tradition.

Gjaldkyri remains in use in modern Icelandic to refer to an organization’s treasurer or bursar.

king’s governor ODan SkBL
paymaster OIce Kge 28
town sheriff OSw VmL Mb
treasurer ONorw FrL Leb 8 Reb 2 Refs:

Bayley 1990; CV s.v. gjaldkeri; Fritzner s.v. gjaldkeri; Hertzberg s.v. gjaldkeri; KLNM s.v. gældker, vapenförbud; NF s.v. gjaldkere

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

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/1889