This video is sponsored by Vikings: War of Clans. Build, plan and conquer in the game that lets you choose your own play-style. What kind of leader will you be as you work towards pitting your nation against others? Played by over 20 million people around the world, Vikings lets you write your own history. Click on the link in the description below and not only will you be supporting our channel but you will begin your conquest with a defensive shield and an extra 200 gold, to secure your legacy! It is the year 1033. Four years have passed since the defeat of exiled King, Olaf Haraldsson, near Stiklestad. The battle was a botched effort by Olaf to reclaim his kingdom that cost him his very life. With his supporters either dead or scattered, his remaining family sought refuge at the court of their ally, Kievan grand prince Yaroslav. Among his exiled relatives were his only son and heir (though illegitimate), 8 year old Magnus and his half-brother Harald Sigurdsson who at the age fifteen fought and was wounded alongside Olaf at the disastrous battle. Over the next three years, Harald won local renown in the military service of Yaroslav. He proved his valour and skill in various feuds against the grand prince’s opponents such as the Pechenegs, Finnic tribes and even Byzantine Empire. Though he climbed to the rank of captain, Harald quickly grew restless with the limited possibilities of serving in Kievan Rus. In 1035 he, along with a skilled retinue, left the service of Yaroslav and ventured south eventually reaching the walls of the mighty city of Constantinople, known to the Vikings as Miklagard. There he managed to find employment as a mercenary to the emperor, Michael IV. Whilst in the service of the empire, Harald saw military action in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean where his Norse naval skills were well utilised fighting Arab pirates. According to sagas, he also visited the Holy Land where he played a part in the signing of peace treaty between Emperor Michael and the Fatimid Caliphate. Over time, Harald moved through the ranks of the Byzantine army and eventually became a member of the renowned Varangian Guard which at the time consisted of many Norse mercenaries. As a commander, he took part in the Roman expeditionary force invading the Emirate of Sicily. Yet again Harald proved his cunning and ability, capturing Arab strongholds and giving rise to near-fantastical tales of his exploits. He even supposedly once faked his own death to get into a city in order to assault his enemies by surprise. Although the success of the Byzantine Empire on Sicily was short-lived, Harald always ensured that he was well rewarded for his victories, lining his own pockets. Over the years serving the emperor, he amassed a significant amount of wealth, all of which was sent to his friend Yaroslav in Kiev for safekeeping. Gaining renown within the Varangian Guard brought Harald into close contact with the Byzantine court and its affairs. His employer, Michael IV, gained the position of emperor through his marriage to Empress Zoe and earned a certain amount of independence as a ruler. But as is often the way, things changed. In 1041 Michael died. And without his benefactor, Harald found himself embroiled in the political power struggle that followed. True or not, several stories arose surrounding Harald including his imprisonment for either defrauding the throne, defiling a noblewoman or simply just for murder. It was also rumoured that he was involved in the blinding of the successor, Emperor Michael V. Clearly, courtly intrigue was far too dangerous for Harald’s liking, so he departed for his homeland of Norway… to start a civil war. He had heard of the death of King Canute and wanted to see if he could leverage this to his advantage. He made a hasty escape from Constantinople, as the new emperor forbade him and his men from leaving, but before returning to Norway, he first took his battle-hardened retinue through the Black Sea back to Kievan Rus. He reunited with his old friend, Yaroslav, promptly married his daughter and reclaimed his amassed riches. With his wealth secured, he departed for Scandinavia and in 1046, arrived in Sweden. Upon his arrival, he learned that not only was Cnut dead but so too were all his sons. The creator of the North Sea Empire had left no other heirs. What was more; Denmark and Norway were ruled by young Magnus the Good, Olaf’s bastard son and Harald’s nephew. This was a problem. Harald had ambitions of becoming king but Magnus was considered a popular ruler and his claim to the throne was far stronger than his. Nevertheless, Harald made the decision to challenge his nephew for the throne. He allied himself with another royal claimant, Sweyn Estridsen, Canute’s nephew, who unsuccessfully fought Magnus for control over Denmark. To undermine Magnus’s rule and display their dominance, they embarked on a campaign of raids along the Danish coast. Their constant harassment of the coastline eventually yielded results as Magnus proposed a political compromise. He offered Harald, and Harald alone, joint-rule over Norway. Magnus would continue to rule Denmark but also be regarded as overlord of the entire realm. Harald was reluctant to break his pact with Sweyn, who was excluded from this arrangement, but eventually accepted the deal with his nephew. It was an uneasy rule between Harald and Magnus with the two seldom able to cooperate. Harald was on the brink of taking up arms once again against his nephew but a year after their accord, Magnus suddenly died. The path to ruling the entire realm suddenly opened for Harald. But even in death, Magnus had one last card to play to spite his uncle. Magnus had named Harald’s betrayed ally, Sweyn Estridsen, as his successor to rule Denmark. This came as a shock to Harald. Immediately he launched naval attacks on the Danish coast as he had done before. But he struggled to maintain a foothold in Denmark. As soon as Harald returned to Norway after an attack, Sweyn stormed in and reclaimed his lost territory. The stalemate between the two lasted for nearly 12 years and took a great economic toll on both rulers. It was not without major victories for Harald. In 1049 he captured and burned Hedeby, a large Norse trade centre situated in southern Denmark. Still, neither side could truly overcome the other through this conflict. But Harald refused to stop. It was during this time that he earned his famous nickname, Hardrada, hard ruler. It was not until 1062 when things finally changed. Whether pushed by his people or simply exhausted by the constant attacks, Sweyn conceded to facing Hardrada in a final decisive battle. The agreed upon place would be at the mouth of Nisa river in Halland to settle things once and for all. On the 9th of August 1062, Hardrada sailed his fleet of 300 ships to the appointed spot at mouth of the river Nisa. But when he arrived, Sweyn’s fleet was nowhere to be seen. Believing Estridsen had a change of heart over the battle, Harald dismissed half of his ships, mostly consisting of farmers and inexperienced militia, back to Norway. He then prepped the remaining fleet to resume raiding the Danish coast. But as evening arrived so too did Sweyn’s fleet, having no doubt heard that half of the Norwegian fleet had departed. Estridsen had double the number of Harald’s forces but Hardrada refused to flee. Years of raiding had hardened the Norwegian navy and his were the better warriors. Hardrada ordered his longships to be roped together with his own drekar in the centre. Ships on the flanks remained untied and were led by Norwegian Jarl, Haakon Ivarsson. Though Sweyn mirrored Hardrada’s tactic and also lashed his ships together, he placed his second-in-command, Jarl Arnesson at the centre. Encouraged by his superior numbers, Estridsen took the initiative and slowly rowed forward to engage. When they got close enough, both sides traded volleys of arrows hoping to gain an early advantage. It took some time, but eventually Hardrada shortened the distance and clashed with Estridsen’s line. As the sun dipped below the horizon, fierce melee broke out. As the battle raged through the night, it seemed like neither side could gain the upper-hand. Although out-numbered, Harald’s men proved their mettle and fought the Danes in a bloody deadlock. As the battle raged on, Hardrada slowly realised that if the encounter continued as it was, he would not win. The numbers were simply against him in spite of his superior troops. But if he could not crush the Danes from the front, he would need to take them from the side. He commanded Jarl Hakon to manoeuvre his detached longboats around the battle line and attack the Danish flank. Hakon quickly overwhelmed the smaller enemy vessels on the left and applied massive pressure to the side of the Danish line. This move turned the tide of the battle. Soon Hardrada’s men started clearing the first line of Danish vessels which eventually resulted in a general retreat. The majority of Sweyn’s retinue were able to escape. The Danish King himself was taken aboard Jarl Hakon’s ship but Hardrada’s commander either didn’t recognise him or simply decided to free him, sending him to the shore. More likely, it was the latter as Hakon once served under Sweyn. Either way, Estridsen was able to escape the slaughter. As great as this victory was for Hardrada, battling through the night and winning against superior numbers, his efforts had gained him nothing. Sweyn along with the majority of the Danish fleet had escapedand Harald’s fleet had suffered losses. He was no closer to actually claiming Denmark. Weeks later, Hardrada discovered that Hakon had helped Sweyn and he ended up exiling the jarl that all but won him the battle of Nisa. The status quo persisted. Hardrada assaulted the Danish coasts for two more years but to no avail. His feud against Sweyn Estridsen could not be won. And due to the economic harm his constant campaigning brought on his kingdom, he finally agreed to sign a peace treaty ending all hostility between the two kingdoms. Even in death, Magnus had won. But Hardrada did not dwell on this as his attention was now drawn to new conquests, specifically to the shores of England. But that’s another story.