In Sweden, this office was the most important one of regional governments, where each "lagsaga" (usually the same as the traditional province) was the jurisdiction of a lawspeaker who was subordinate to the lawspeaker of Tiundaland. The lawspeaker presided over the Things, worked as a judge and formulated the laws that had been decided by the people. The lawspeaker was obliged to memorize the law and to recite it at the Thing. He was also responsible for the administration at the thing and for the execution of the decisions, and it was his duty to safeguard the rights and liberties of the people and to speak in their behalf to the king or his representative. It was the lawspeaker who, on the behalf of the people, recognized the elected king when he passed on the Eriksgata. However, after the establishment of the province laws, ca 1350, he would participate at the Stone of Mora with twelve companions from his jurisdiction.

According to the Westrogothic law, the lawspeaker was appointed for life by the yeomen of the province. The office was not hereditary, but he was usually selected from the more powerful families.

From the mid-13th century and onwards, the lawspeakers became more attached to the king, and it was common that lawspeakers were members of the king's council. King Magnus Eriksson decided that the king would influence the appointment of the lawspeakers. Six nobles and six yeomen would in consultation with two clergymen appoint three men from the jurisdiction among whom the king would select the one he deemed to be most fit. This procedure would be in effect until the 16th century when the whole process of selection was transferred to the king.

From then on, the lawspeakers only came from the nobility, and it had turned into a pension, in which a member of the Privy Council of Sweden was selected and received a salary, but had other people taking care of the work. This privilege was abolished during the reduction of 1680, after which the lawspeakers were obliged to take care of the work themselves, and there were checks on the appointment of members of the privy council. Still, the appointment remained restricted to noblemen until 1723.

By then, the functions of the office had become restricted to that of a judge, a function which also became less important by time. In 1849, the office was abolished, but the title remained occasionally in use as a title of honour for governors.

In 1947, the title was reintroduced for the presidents of the courts of appeal and with the reform in 1969, the presidents of the district courts and the county administrative courts were named lawspeakers (lagmän), whereas the presidents of the courts of appeal were named "court of appeal lawspeakers" (hovrättslagmän).


In Norway, the lawspeakers remained counselors versed in the law until king Sverre I of Norway (1184–1202) made them into his officials. In the laws of Magnus VI of Norway (1263–80), they were given the right to function as judges and to preside at the lagtings (the Norwegian superior courts). The lagtings and the office of lawspeaker were abolished in 1797, but it was reinstuted in 1890 together with the introduction of the jury system.


In Iceland, the office was introduced in 930, when the Alþing was established. He was elected for three years. Besides his function as the president of the thing, his duties were restricted to counselling and to reciting the law. It was the sole government office of the mediaeval Icelandic Commonwealth. The lawspeaker was elected for a term of three years and was supposed to declaim the law at Alþingi, a third of it each summer. In fact, Grímr Svertingsson's term was cut short, not because of incompetence or illness, but because his voice was too weak for the job. Apart from his function as a lawsayer and chairman of the court, the "lögsögumaðr" had no formal power, but he would often be appointed as an arbitrator in the frequently arising disputes. The office lingered on for a few years in the transitional period after 1262, after which it was replaced with a "lögmaðr". The traditional date for the founding of Alþingi is 930 with Úlfljótr appearing as a founding figure and the original author of the laws. After the union with Norway in 1264, two royal lawspeakers were appointed who had an important influence on the legal processes at the thing. The office was abolished together with the Alþing in 1800.

List of Icelandic lawspeakers

Scholars are understandably suspiciousww of the fact that Úlfljótur's first two successors have been assigned a period in office of exactly 20 summers each, but from "Þorkell máni" on, the chronology is probably correct. Names are given in their modern Icelandic form.

LögsögumaðurTerm in office
Úlfljóturca. 930
Hrafn Hængsson930–949
Þórarinn Ragabróðir Óleifsson950–969
Þorkell máni Þorsteinsson970–984
Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði Þorkelsson985–1001
Grímur Svertingsson1002–1003
Skafti Þóroddsson1004–1030
Steinn Þorgestsson1031–1033
Þorkell Tjörvason1043–1053
Gellir Bölverksson1054–1062
Gunnar hinn spaki Þorgrímsson1063–1065
Kolbeinn Flosason1066–1071
Gellir Bölverksson1072–1074
Gunnar hinn spaki Þorgrímsson1075
Sighvatur Surtsson1076–1083
Markús Skeggjason1084–1107
Úlfhéðinn Gunnarsson1108–1116
Bergþór Hrafnsson1117–1122
Guðmundur Þorgeirsson1123–1124
Hrafn Úlfhéðinsson1135–1138
Finnur Hallsson1139–1145
Gunnar Úlfhéðinsson1146–1155
Snorri Húnbogason1156–1170
Styrkár Oddason1171–1180
Gissur Hallsson1181–1202
Hallur Gissurarson1203–1209
Styrmir hinn fróði Kárason1210–1214
Snorri Sturluson1215–1218
Teitur Þorvaldsson1219–1221
Snorri Sturluson1222–1231
Styrmir hinn fróði Kárason1232–1235
Teitur Þorvaldsson1236–1247
Ólafr hvítaskáld Þórðarson1248–1250
Sturla Þórðarson1251
Ólafr hvítaskáld Þórðarson1252
Teitur Einarsson1253–1258
Ketill Þorláksson1259–1262
Þorleifur hreimur Ketilsson1263–1265
Sigurður Þorvaldsson1266
Jón Einarsson1267
Þorleifur hreimur Ketilsson1268
Jón Einarsson1269–1270
Þorleifur hreimur Ketilsson1271


* [ An article in Nordisk familjebok]

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