lænsmaþer (OSw) lénsmaðr (ON) lænsman (OSw) lænsmander (OSw) noun

In the most general sense, a lænsmaþer was a representative, proxy or deputy to a higher official. Like gælkare (q.v.), the title has been used to translate Lat. exactor. In Denmark and Norway a representative of this kind was often called høvedsmand.

In the Swedish laws a lænsmaþer was often an official of the king (OSw konungs lænsmaþer) or bishop (OSw biskups lænsmaþer) who saw to local administrative matters and represented their interests at assemblies (OSw þing) and collected taxes and fines on their behalf. Lænsmaþer also appears to be interchangeable with the term for prosecutor (OSw soknari) in YVgL, ÖgL and SmL, all of which appear to have functions similar to the Norwegian ármaðr (q.v.). According to UL the lænsmaþer had the privilege of convening a panel (OSw næmd) which selects judges (OSw domari) in each hundred (OSw hundari). The husabyman (q.v.) in DL may have been the equivalent of a lænsmaþer in Dalarna, though the former may have had some slightly different responsibilities or indeed have been subordinate to the lænsmaþer. The terms konungs maþer and biskups maþer in OSw DL and HL may refer to a lænsmaþer.

In Denmark and Norway a lænsmaþer may also refer specifically to a holder of a fief (ON lén, see læn) granted by the king (or a bishop, in the case of church estates). As such he operated as governor of an area during the Middle Ages and was permitted to make use of the region’s incomes.

In Norway a lénsmaðr often referred to a deputy to the sheriff (sýslumaðr, see sysluman) and acted on his behalf, particularly by serving in court proceedings. He also had the authority to arrest criminals. There were not supposed to be more than two lénsmenn in any given district (fylki). According to an ordinance issued in 1293, a man who was appointed lénsmaðr had to be a householder (bóndi, see bonde) from a good family. The most important function of a lénsmaðr was collecting incomes, namely taxes and fines. He also had police duties and could stand in for the law-man (lögmaðr, see laghmaþer). After 1537 the administration system was restructured and a lénsmaðr was renamed bondelensmann. The title lensmann is still used in Norway.

In the Icelandic laws the lénsmaðr generally refers to the sheriff and his aides. The term does not appear until amendments began to be made to Jónsbók, though it is used in several medieval Icelandic diplomas thereafter.

administrator OSw YVgL Kkb, Urb, Tb, Föb, Add
bailiff OSw DL Mb, Tjdb, Rb
OSw HL Mb, Rb

bishop’s administrator OSw UL Kkb
OSw VmL Kkb

commissioner OSw KrL Gb Bb Rb DbI DbII Tb
OSw MEL Gb Rb DbI Tb

deputy ONorw FrL Mhb 60
king’s administrator OSw HL Rb
OSw YVgL Urb, Tb

king’s local administrator OSw HL Rb
local administrator OSw UL Kgb, Mb, Kmb, Blb, Rb
OSw VmL Mb, Kmb, Bb, Rb

official OSw HL Kkb
representative OSw SdmL Kkb, Jb, Bb, Kmb, Mb, Tjdb, Rb
sheriff OSw HL Rb

biskups lænsmaþer, biskups lænsman, biskops lænsman, biskops man (OSw)

bishop’s administrator OSw UL Kkb, Äb, Mb VmL Kkb

bishop’s bailiff OSw DL Kkb, Rb

bishop’s official OSw HL Kkb

konungs lænsmaþer, konungs man, kunungs lænsman (OSw)

king’s administrator OSw DL Tjdb UL Kkb, Mb, Rb VmL Mb, Rb

king’s bailiff OSw HL Md DL Mb, Rb


CV s.v. lén; F s.v. lénsmaðr; KLNM s.v. embedsindtægter, høvedsmand, lensmann, soknare ; LexMA s.v. Lehen; NGL s.v. lénsmaðr; Schlyter s.v. lænsmaþer; SNL s.v. lensmann

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

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/3450