Above: A penny from Magnus Lagabøte
Lagabøte, son of Håkon Håkonsson,
appears to have been more inclined towards peace than his father. Magnus
sold the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to the Scots and established peace
with them in 1266. He also kept peace with his neighbours, even to the
extent of refraining from forcefully claiming the dowry for his Danish
wife. The dowry was, in fact, never paid.
Magnus is best known for his contribution to the transformation of Norwegian legislation. The national legal code that was developed during his reign co-ordinated and harmonised the laws of the four regional assemblies ("lagting"). The new code established national legislation as belonging to the king’s jurisdiction. A common municipal code was established for the centres of trade, and the privileges of the nobility, the higher civil servants and the king’s personal troops were carefully defined in a document called the «Hirdskrå». The purpose of the new legislation was to create a unified legal system for the whole country, doing away with the old, regional differences in the code of law. The new national code can be seen as evidence of the central government’s triumph over the regional assemblies and over the rule of the wealthy farmers. Magnus also introduced titles in accordance with traditions abroad: the feudal lords were now referred to as barons and the courtiers were now called knights.
Magnus met with strong resistance on one issue. The Norwegian archbishop refused to accept the king’s jurisdiction over church law. After a lengthy struggle, the king and the archbishop negotiated a treaty, the Concordat of Tønsberg, in 1277. In this settlement the church was conceded several privileges, including significant tax exemption.
Magnus Lagabøte’s son, Eirik Magnusson, succeeded his father upon his death in 1280.