Lensmann in modern Norwegian or lensmand in Danish and older Norwegian spelling (lit. fief man; Old Norwegian: lénsmaðr) is a term with several distinct meanings in Scandinavian history.
The term traditionally referred to a holder of a royal fief. As the fiefs were renamed Amt in 1662, the term lensmand was replaced with amtmand. In Norway the office of lensmand and later amtmand evolved into the modern fylkesmann office. By modern Norwegian historians, the term lensherre (English: fief lord) is often used instead of lensmann, although from the legal point of view, the king was the fief lord, and the title used by contemporaries was lensmand, not lensherre.
Farmer lensmann and the modern police office
The title lensmann is also used in an entirely different meaning in Norway, denoting the leader of a rural police district known as lensmannsdistrikt. This modern lensmann office descends directly from the medieval and post-medieval bondelensmann (English: farmer lensmann). The farmer lensmann was originally appointed among farmers by the sysselmann. In post-medieval times a typical candidate to the lensmann office was a so-called good farmer, being of a wealthy family and/or enjoying respect or holding a leading position in the local society, and he was also elected by other good farmers in their function as lagrette (English: lay judge). When the office of fogd (bailiff) was introduced the farmer lensmanns in each fogderi were placed under him. In 1660 there were between 300 and 350 lensmanns in Norway. In the hierarchy of the state administration in a county (len and later amt), the farmer lensmann was subordinate to the bailiffs, the district judges and ultimately to the head of the county administration, the lensmand (fief-holder), later retitled amtmand.
- Mikael Berglund, Cross-border Enforcement of Claims in the EU: History, Present Time and Future, ISBN 9041128611, 2009, page 101
- Stortingsmelding nr 22 (2000-2201) punkt 3