Á 16. og 17. öld var Ísland lén í Danmörku og var rekstur þess og stjórnsýsla sambærileg við önnur lén innan danska ríkisins. Á þessu tímabili voru stigin fyrstu stóru skrefin í mótun ríkisvalds á Íslandi með styrkingu konungsvalds, þar sem einn lénsmaður fór með völd í landinu fyrir hönd konungs. Hér birtist ný sýn á sögu 16. og 17. aldar á Íslandi, stöðu Íslands innan danska ríkisins og hvernig þróun stjórnsýslunnar í Kaupmannahöfn birtist hér á landi.
Hverjir voru þessir lénsmenn konungs á Íslandi og hvernig mótaðist stjórnsýsla konungs? Hvaða skjöl urðu til á tímabilinu 1541–1683 við stjórn og rekstur lénsins Íslands og hvaða sögu segja þau? Frumheimildir um stjórnsýslu þessa tímabils hafa um margar aldir verið sundraðar og ekki hefur áður verið tekið á þeim út frá uppruna skjalanna og stjórnsýslulegu samhengi. Heimildirnar eru varðveittar á söfnum bæði á Íslandi og í Danmörku.
Lénið Ísland er grundvallarrit um þetta áður lítt rannsakaða tímabil í sögu Íslands.
Skjalasafn og rannsóknaraðferð
Skrif um sögu 16. og 17. aldar
Nálgun og framsetning rannsóknar
2 Mótun stjórnsýslu konungs eftir siðaskipti
Stjórnarskrifstofurnar, kansellí og rentukammer
Lénin og lénsmenn
Réttaröryggi og skjalahald
Embættismenn í lénunum
Stjórnsýsla og afgreiðsla erinda
Lénsmannsskipti og fógetar lénsmanna
Hugmyndir Christians IV. um breytingar á lénunum
3 Endurskoðun lénsreikninga í rentukammeri og íslensku lénsreikningarnir
Innihald lénsreikninga og uppbygging
Reikningar yfir tekjur og gjöld ásamt kvittunum
Sakeyrisskrár, óvissar tekjur
Útdrættir úr reikningum
Athugasemdir rentumeistara við reikningsfærsluna og svör lénsmanna
4 Lénsmennirnir og störf þeirra samkvæmt erindis- og veitingarbréfum
Almennt um lénsmenn
Fyrstu lénsmenn við siðaskipti. Lénsmenn 1541–1551
Að festa nýjan sið í sessi. Lénsmenn 1551–1570 (1574)
Otte Stigesen 1551–1552 og Eggert Hannesson 1552
Poul Huitfeldt 1552–1554 (Páll Hvítfeld)
Knud Stensen 1554–1559 (Knútur Steinsson)
Poul Stigesen 1560–1566 (Páll Stígsson)
Hendrik Krag til Trenderup 1567–1569 (Henrik Krag)
Christoffer Valckendorf 1569–1570 (Kristófer Valkendorf)
Þróun stjórnsýslu. Lénsmenn 1570 (1574)–1633
Johan Bocholt 1570–1586 (Jóhann Bokholt)
Peder Thomassøn 1587 (Pétur Tómasson)
Laurits Kruse Tygissøn til Svendstrup 1588–1591 (Lars Kruse)
Hendrik Krag til Trenderup 1591–1595 (Henrik Krag)
Brostrup Giedde til Tommerup 1595–1597 (Bostrup Gedde)
Johan Bocholt 1597–1602 (Jóhann Bokholt)
Enevold Kruse til Vingegaard 1602–1606 (Enuvold Krúse)
Herluf Trolle Daa til Snedinge 1606–1619 (Herluf Daa)
Frederik Friis til Hesselager á Fjóni 1619 (Friðrik Friis)
Holger Rosenkrantz 1620–1633 (Holgeir Rosenkrants)
Aukin stjórnsýsla. Síðustu 50 ár lénsmannstímans
Pros Mund til Bjerkevold 1633–1645 (Pros Mundt)
Jens Søffrensen 1645–1648 (Jens Söffrensen)
Henrik Bjelke til Østeraat 1648–1683 (Henrik Bjelke)
5 Söfnun heimilda — myndun skjalasafns á Bessastöðum 1552–1682
Söfnun heimilda 1552–1636
Staða eignarmála og eftirlits 1636–1637
Söfnun og skráning eignarheimilda 1639–1645
Söfnun og skráning eignarheimilda 1657–1682
Skrá yfir skjalasafn Bessastaða
Viðauki 1. Uppskriftir lénsreikninga
Lénsreikningur fyrir reikningsárið 1590–1591
Lénsreikningur fyrir reikningsárið 1647–1648
Viðauki 2. Veitingarbréf lénsmanna og fógeta
Viðauki 3. Mynt og verðgildi
Viðauki 4. Varðveittir lénsreikningar frá léninu Íslandi
Viðauki 5. Lénsmenn og fógetar þeirra 1541–1683
Viðauki 6. Viðburðaskrá 1541–1683
Skrá yfir töflur, skipurit og kort
Kristjana Kristinsdóttir (f. 1955) er sagnfræðingur að mennt. Hún lauk BA-prófi í sagnfræði frá Háskóla Íslands árið 1980 og cand.mag.-prófi árið 1984 frá sama skóla. Samhliða stundaði hún nám í skjalfræði við Odense Universitet 1982–1983 og við Stockholms Universitet árið 1986. Kristjana lauk doktorsprófi frá Háskóla Íslands árið 2021.
Á árunum 1983–1987 var Kristjana skjalavörður Sögusafns verkalýðshreyfingarinnar og jafnframt 1983–1984 skjalavörður í menntamálaráðuneyti. Á árunum 1985 til 1987 vann hún einnig ýmis sjálfstæð verkefni við skipulagningu og frágang skjalasafna embætta, stofnana og félaga.
Árið 1988 hóf Kristjana störf hjá Þjóðskjalasafni Íslands, í fyrstu sem starfsmaður nefndar sem fjallaði um skjalavörslu Stjórnarráðs Íslands og síðan sem skjalavörður og forstöðumaður skjalavörslusviðs safnsins. Þar hafði hún umsjón með skipulagningu á skjalavörslu hins opinbera, eftirlit og ráðgjöf um skjalavörslu, umsjón með afhendingu skjalasafna og gerð geymsluskráa auk fræðslu og rannsókna á stjórnsýslusögu. Kristjana starfar nú sem fagstjóri á sviði eftirlits og ráðgjafar hjá Þjóðskjalasafni.
Kristjana kenndi skjalfræði innan námsbrautar í sagnfræði við Háskóla Íslands í 35 ár samhliða öðrum störfum. Fyrstu 20 árin kenndi hún í stundakennslu en tók síðan við starfi lektors í skjalfræði árið 2005 og sinnti því til ársins 2021.
Á rannsóknarferli sínum hefur Kristjana lagt áherslu á stjórnsýslusögu opinberra aðila og sveitarstjórna og myndun skjalasafna þeirra, einkum frá fyrri tímum. Þá hefur hún einnig sinnt stjórnsýslusögu 20. aldar í tengslum við skjalasöfn ráðuneyta.
Helsta rannsóknarverkefni hennar sem tengist eldri sögu er rannsókn á þróun og uppbyggingu stjórnsýslu lénsmanna konungs á Íslandi á 16. og 17. öld og myndun skjalasafns þeirra, sem birtist í þessari bók. Hún hefur einnig skrifað um embætti hreppstjóra og stýrt athugunum á ýmsum eldri embættum. Samhliða beinum sagnfræðilegum rannsóknum hefur Kristjana skrifað handbækur og leiðbeiningarit um skjalavörslu. Niðurstöður rannsókna hennar hafa birst í bókum, skýrslum og tímaritum hérlendis og erlendis.
Viðtal við höfund í Saga og samfélag á Hringbraut
Viðtal við höfund í Morgunblaðinu
Viðtal við höfund í Til skjalanna: Hlaðvarp Þjóðskjalasafns
Viðtal við höfund í Saga og samfélag á Hringbraut
About 20 years after the Reformation in Denmark, around 1550, the king began placing increased emphasis on the secular organization of his administration both in Denmark-Norway and in the dependencies. This thesis examines the development of the King of Denmark’s administration in Iceland, with particular emphasis on the documents created as the administration developed. Within Denmark there were three types of fiefdom: fiefdom by account (i. reikningslén), fiefdom by rent (i. afgjaldslén) and fiefdom by service (i. þjónustulén). Most governors of Iceland belonged to the aristocracy and were either Danish or Norwegian. The royal governor (i. lénsmaður), being the king’s representative, oversaw all royal revenue in the country, secular and church property alike, as evidenced by appointment letters (i. veitingarbréf), various orders from the king (such as regarding the compilation of land registers), parliamentary resolutions, fiefdom accounts and last but not least their review by royal officials in Copenhagen.
The King’s Administration
The king reaffirmed the making of court records in 1551, 1558 and 1578, and from that time on they are believed to be certified. Royal governors were enjoined to ensure that they were preserved safely. The monitoring of royal governors throughout the state and their account entries was increased, as stipulated in 1557. The king insisted that fiefdom accounts should be reviewed, and he reorganized the Chancellery (d. kanselli) and the Treasury (d. rentekammer), the main departments of royal administration in Copenhagen. As early as 1550 he sent Icelanders a signet, and in 1553 he began collecting certificates of title (i. eignarheimildir) and seized documents from the monastery in Viðey. This marked one of the first signs of the emerging administration and an increased interest in Iceland on the part of the king.
The king’s appointment letters (i. veitingarbréf), in Iceland at least, became uniform around 1574, and remained largely unchanged until 1683, or for over a century. The monitoring of governors increased later in the period. In 1582, governors were ordered to see that the king’s orders, published in open letters at local assemblies (þing), were honoured, otherwise they risked losing their fiefdoms. The importance of the review of fiefdom accounts by the rentekammer, was simply the fact that it had to be accomplished, and demands were made that entries in fiefdom accounts had to be supported by documents and bear the signature of the governor. The requirement that the governors sign supporting documents was first made in 1620, and in 1626 it was stipulated that they should sign the accounts themselves. In 1618 the king decreed that all governors of fiefdoms, whether by rent or by account, should turn in their accounts no later than by the end of the financial year, and subsequently send them to the rentekammer for review by the 1st of May every year, or else risk losing their fiefdoms without notice. Governors were the intermediaries between the king’s administrative offices and the people of each fiefdom but rarely resided in Iceland. Instead, their deputy governors (fógetar) managed and handled the collection of revenue from the fiefdom. The governors, however, usually attended the meeting of the Alþingi for a few days during the summer, and were of course responsible for running the fiefdoms.
In the wake of the Reformation, one of the major tasks of the governor was putting the church ordinance into practice. For the first decade or two after the Reformation, this primarily revolved around the education and subordinance of ministers, the building of churches, the establishment of schools, improving morality in Iceland and ensuring that church ordinances were obeyed. From this time, i.e. from the years 1566–1567 to 1572–1573, abstracts of governors’ accounts have been preserved, demonstrating the development of the administration.
Not until around 1570 are there signs that the orders of the king regarding general public administration were proving effective. The Icelandic parliamentary registers (i. Alþingisbækur) appear to have come into existence at theinstigation of the lawmen (i. lögmenn), who were the two judges presiding over the Law Council (i. lögrétta) at the Alþingi. The oldest land registers, detailing the king’s property, date back to this period, and the oldest copy-book or cartulary of property titles, Bessastaðabók, is believed to have been written around 1570. From 1563 ministers were appointed by the governor, and at the same time an attempt was also made to further increase the influence of the king or his representatives, the governors, by establishing a High Court (i. yfirréttur), although it did not prove effective. There the verdicts of lawmen could be appealed to the governor and 24 gentlemen (i. heiðursmenn). There is no doubt that Icelanders were slow to follow the king’s orders. It is of special note how late, or not until 1592, they requested a special new signet and parliamentary scribe to keep accounts of the parliament’s work. In the same year, the king ordered his governors to keep the fiefdom’s collection of documents in order and to preserve important documents for the administration of their successors, once they retired.
Icelanders always emphasized the importance of adhering to Icelandic law, that is to say to the lawbook Jónsbók. The king’s judicial pronouncements were written into copies of Jónsbók, for instance his decrees, such as the church ordinance. Additionally, there were special court records or court record collections. These books are examples of ways in which administrative information was preserved for the country’s authorities. The letters appointing bishops, according to the church’s covenant, point out that they are to turn in the church’s accounts to a governor and a land register to the rentekammer. They were the officials of the king, according to the church ordinance, and to be appointed to their positions the king’s approval was necessary.
Although few land registers (jarðabækur) and inventory books (i. máldagar) regarding church property originating in the archives of Bessastaðir have been preserved, there is no doubt that such books were extant at the time. The king, however, oversaw the operation of the bishoprics and land owned by the church.
The king’s ideas about changes to the arrangement of fiefdoms within the state may be what sparked the collection of documents which began in 1636 and continued until 1645.
While Iceland was a fiefdom by account, the king’s income from the fiefdom appears to have been about 7,000 riksdaler after the deduction of expenses of about 2,000 riksdaler a year. Steady income from a fiefdom by rent amounted to 3,200 riksdaler. In addition, the governor supervised trade from which he collected the king’s revenue. The king’s letter, dated April 16th 1602, regarding the introduction of the trade monopoly, noted that merchants must follow the orders of the governor and obey him in all matters, in addition to paying him the quit rent from harbours. It is hard to reach a conclusion regarding the income of the governors, but in the year 1646 the amount is said to have been around 4,365 riksdaler. How that amount was calculated is not discernible.
The accounts are organized by first listing all the king’s sources of revenue, both in money and in kind, and these are then most often added up. This is followed by all items of expense (or what has been deducted from the income) and usually added up. “All items of income” means that in an account for a fiefdom by rent, the quit rent and fines are all counted as revenue, while expenses include payments toward the quit rent. In a fiefdom by account, the income is listed, including land dues and rents, according to the land registers in Gullbringusýsla and Kjósarsýsla counties, which belonged to Bessastaðir and were not rented for life. Income from monasteries, counties and from land owned by the king or bishoprics in the care of their representative included taxes, tolls, tithes and fines. There were also the obligations that tenant farmers must assist landowners, such as the king, by rowing their boats for fishing and transport, as well as a toll tenants in Gullbringusýsla county paid the king for every farmhand they kept. Apart from the assets of Bessastaðir and Viðey island, money for goods sold, a boat owner’s share of the catch, ships’ rent, in addition to a county’s levy of crewmembers for the king’s ships during the fishing season must not be forgotten. Furthermore, a list of farmhands required of tenants to be lent to the king and a list of other servants who rowed the king’s boats are to be found. Expenses listed include the governor’s salary and those of other officials of the fiefdom, in addition to their board, and money spent on the purchase of goods. There is no doubt that fiefdom accounts dating back to the years when Iceland was a fiefdom by account are a more detailed source than those dating from the time when the country was a fiefdom by rent. Fiefdom accounts from the time when Iceland was a fiefdom by rent have been preserved only for the period from 1645 to 1648, in addition to summaries from 1566–1567 to 1572–1573, as mentioned above. It is worth pointing out that the accounts are those of the king; the income and expenses are his. The entries show that the governors had to do paperwork and take care of book-keeping, which marks the beginning of a more centralized royal administration.
Royal governors presided over all court and legal procedures in spiritual matters, according to the church ordinance, and in secular matters, at least following the establishment of the High Court in 1593. The two lawmen, usually Icelanders, were appointed by the king and were expected to be loyal and faithful to him and to the governor. The governors selected the county magistrates (sýslumenn) with the approval of a lawman and the people. Beginning in 1619, county magistrates swore allegiance to them, and in 1650 the governor ordered them to attend the Alþingi in person or else risk losing their posts. Due to the confiscation of estates during the Reformation, managers of estates (umboðsmenn) and monasteries (klausturhaldarar) also became royal officials, and governors were expected to oversee their duties. Governors distributed estates and monasteries, but the letters were issued by the king. People sought the advice of governors whenever they believed they had suffered injustice meted out by county magistrates, lawmen, merchants or bishops. This was in accordance with the appointment letters of governors and instructions regarding the correct course of justice. In other words, the matter first had to be reviewed in the district parliament (héraðsþing), then at the Alþingi, and finally, if necessary, sent to the king for advice.
The collection of information that took place in the period 1636 to 1645 sheds light on the state of administration in Iceland at the time. The king intervened in domestic issues. Administration had begun to develop, but had a long way to go and had many deficiencies. The royal governor understood that due to circumstances in Iceland, for instance geographical reasons, royal decrees could not always be followed to the letter. The king’s response was to institute a general collection of information, where anyone managing an estate would have to provide information regarding their circumstances. And people obeyed, as the preserved documents indicate.
The royal governors kept the country’s signet from 1593, which is why all important letters from Iceland and messages to the king regarding domestic issues passed through their hands. They presented matters to the king on behalf of the Icelanders.
Still, it is clear that in all the king’s fiefdoms within the Danish realm, general matters were handled within each fiefdom in the local parliament, without the involvement of the Chancellery or the king. Icelandic parliamentary records, court rulings, individual letters and information from governors bear witness to this. Icelanders often mention in their letters, as does the king, that a ruling must be made according to Icelandic law.
Iceland was a fiefdom within the Kingdom of Denmark, on equal terms with the other royal fiefdoms. Royal governors in Iceland had the same duties as other governors of the king of Denmark.
The Bessastaðir Archive
The archives of royal governors are discussed in a report on the Danish National Archives from 1889–1890. There it is stated that although royal archives of public documents (d. brevkister) existed in Denmark since olden times — preserved by governors, in churches, monasteries and by bishops — the permanent preservation of statutes, royal letters and other significant documents was not made compulsory until 1537, following the Reformation in Denmark.
The king intended that the archives, like other assets, would remain in the fiefdom when a governor was succeeded by a new one. It is clear from the appointment letters and the development of the archives of governors in the rest of Denmark’s fiefdoms, that the royal governors in Iceland had to have various documents and papers at hand in the fiefdom to be able to fulfill their duties properly as regards the king and the country in the same way as other governors of the king.
The term Bessastaðir Archive is used here as a collective term for documents collected at Bessastaðir and created there during the period 1541–1683. The archive is first mentioned in 1553, when the inventory of the monastery at Viðey was delivered to the governor, and later in fiefdom accounts from 1619 and 1645–1648, and finally in a document from 1662. This study, which investigates the administration of royal governors in Iceland from 1541 to 1683, draws the conclusion that the following categories or types of documents constituted the Bessastaðir Archive, albeit not necessarily all at the same time:
A. A copy of the Jónsbók law codex. Thirty-three Danish manuscripts of Jónsbók exist. The royal governors appear to have owned copies of this codex early on and to have regarded them as their personal property. A copy of Jónsbók must certainly have existed at Bessastaðir too. Not only is Jónsbók a collection of statutes, but it also contains instructions for the opening of the Alþingi and for district parliaments, a definition of a tithe, the Old Covenant (Gamli sáttmáli), in addition to royal letters and parliamentary rulings. The same is true for judgement books (dómabækur): not only did they include verdicts, but also diverse information about legal procedures.
B. The Registers of the Alþingi (Alþingisbækur), at least as far back as 1631. Such records were kept annually as of that year, when the first parliamentary scribe was appointed. In these books the activities of the Alþingi were recorded, as were royal letters, decrees and verdicts.
C. Court records and judicial records, including judicial amendments (i. réttarbætur), royal letters and decrees from the Alþingi.
D. Royal letters and other letters. Royal letters are either patents, including legal instructions to be read out loud at the Alþingi, or sealed letters (missives), meant for the governors alone. One such sealed letter included, for example, an order from the king to the governor regarding the preservation of the fiefdom’s archive from 1593.
E. Transcripts of royal letters. It was common at the time and later for letters and documents to be copied into special cartularies.
F. Monastery letters. With the Reformation, monasteries came into the king’s possession. The same was true for all monastery inventories, listing their assets and thus they became part of the Bessastaðir archive.
G. Transcripts of monastery documents. Documents were transcribed into books which have been preserved, and such books of transcripts make up part of the administration of the time. Information regarding the monasteries’ assets had to be available at Bessastaðir.
H. Land registers of the king’s assets. One of the king’s first undertakings after the Reformation was to have a land register made. Such books were important to the king in managing the fiefdom, since they listed the merits of each farm and the possibility of further revenues. The oldest preserved land register begins in the year 1550.
I. Registers pertaining to the land of cathedrals and churches. The same applies for land belonging to cathedrals and churches as to the king’s assets. In order to assess what income could be made from them, the books had to be available at Bessastaðir.
J. Inventories and transcripts of letters of the cathedrals and their respective churches. The same applies here: the information had to be available at Bessastaðir to make it possible to monitor and collect income.
K. Land registers of managed estates, registers of assets and registers of flotsam and jetsam. The same applies here: the information had to be available at Bessastaðir to make it possible to monitor and collect income.
L. Lists and accounts, showing income and expenses. Due to the review and monitoring by the king, a record of income and expenses was required. A good example of this are lists covering income and expenses, which were first recorded in 1636.
The methodology applied in this thesis is based on the theory of the Principle of Provenance, which today constitutes the basis for all handling of archives. Its core requirement is that each archive must be preserved as a well-defined whole and that the inner order of the archive must be preserved. The Principle of Provenance entails that when handling documents one must be aware of the nature and characteristics of the archive, its origin and development, to be able to assess its value as a source. When assessing which documents belong to the Bessastaðir Archive, the question was asked why the document was created and for whom, as well as considering the document’s structure, its content, its main characteristics and its preservation history.
The Bessastaðir Archive is not presently preserved as a special archive. The reason for this is that governors, to begin with at least, regarded the archives as their personal property. The king tried to change this and ordered them in 1593 to leave the archives behind in the fiefdom, since they were needed by their successors for governing the fiefdom. Because of the rentekammer review, governors no doubt sometimes delivered documents to the rentekammer and the Chancellery which originally belonged to the fiefdom’s archive, and failed to bring them back to Iceland. An example of this are the documents in the king’s Privy Archive.
Documents from the Bessastaðir Archive are currently preserved at the Danish National Archives (Rigsarkivet), The Arnamagnean Collection (Den Arnamagnæanske samling) in Copenhagen, the Royal Library in Copenhagen (Det Kongelige bibliotek), the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies (Árnastofnun), the Icelandic National Archives (Þjóðskjalasafn Íslands) and the Department of Manuscripts of the National and University Library, Reykjavík (Handritadeild Landsbókasafns Íslands – Háskólabókasafns).
The present thesis includes as an appendix a reconstruction of the Bessastaðir Archive from 1541 to 1683, in addition to other documents which were created during the same period and which shed light on the administration at the time. The register obviously only includes preserved documents, although most certainly more documents were created than the register lists.
Hopefully this thesis will encourage and facilitate further scholarly research into the development of the king’s administration and the royal governors’ archive in the period from 1541 to 1683.
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