It is a gusty summer morning somewhere on the Essex coast. Answering the call of Byrhtnoth, local ealdorman, many simple farmers and peasants gathered to defend their shire against the Norse invaders, reported to be plundering the coast some miles to the south. Byrhtnoth, already in his sixties, but still of imposing physical presence, standing over six-feet tall was deeply concerned by the recent news telling of the size of the Viking fleet operating in the area. But his mood brightened a bit when his eyes fell upon the group of young, strong men being mustered nearby. Then the faint sound of a horn announced the arrival of another scouting party, pushing their mounts to their limits. This could only mean one thing. Byrhtnoth took a few steps forward, breathed in the fresh morning air. The Vikings were here. This video is sponsored by Vikings: War of Clans! Inspired by the famous strategy games of the 90s, Vikings: War of clans is a visually stunning game set in a world where Vikings rule. Build your kingdom and armies as a mighty Jarl waging war on other players around the world. A big plus is the variety play-styles: exploration, building and diplomacy are just a few ways you can approach the game. If you enjoy strategic games with beautiful graphics, then Vikings: War of Clans is worth checking out! Help Support our channel by downloading Vikings for free using the link in the description below and get the special bonus of 200 gold coins and a protective shield, a fitting edge to aid you on your road to glory. It’s spring of the year 975. Roughly twenty years has passed since Norse chieftain Eric Bloodaxe was driven out of York, and the lands of Northumbria. And with that, the last bit of Danelaw ruled by the Danish Vikings was made part of the English Kingdom. The sudden demise of King Eric brought a long awaited period of relative peace to the English commoner and nobility, as after decades of wars, Norse raids and general uncertainty the Viking activity in England significantly abated, making room for economic growth and a revival of monastic communities. At the time, the throne in Winchester was occupied by King Edgar, an efficient monarch, who was determined to at least match the deeds of his renowned forebears and continued their struggle to unify the country under a single ruler. But as it was often the case in the Middle Ages, the death of an incumbent monarch could cause any single European kingdom to rock on its foundations. Obviously, England was no different and when good King Edgar suddenly died in 975 at the young age of thirty one, the fate of his realm quickly became hazy. He left two underage sons Edward and Æthelred who initially served just as mere tools in the political game of Anglo-Saxon magnates. Since Edward was the older son and his claim was supported by many important figures, he was crowned as the new King of the English in July 975. His reign didn’t last for long though. Within the next three years Edward alienated many of his influential supporters, who subsequently turned their favor to his younger brother Æthelred. Edward was murdered in March 978, shortly before he reached majority. In such unworthy circumstances, Edward’s younger half-brother, the twelve-years-old Æthelred sat on the English throne in Winchester. Unsurprisingly, from the onset Æthelred was just a figurehead with very limited authority, while the true power was held by his mother, queen dowager Ælfthryth. We ought to mention, that it was rumoured that Ælfthryth was most likely the one behind the assassination of the previous king and thus Æthelred’s immediate political landscape was filled with distrust, disloyalty and courtly schemes, undermining the royal authority. What’s more, shortly before Æthelred’s coronation, the building where the members of Witenagemot were gathering collapsed, killing many senior advisors and seriously injuring many others. This event was such an important setback of Æthelred’s early reign, that he eventually gained a nickname Æthelred the Unready, meaning „poorly advised” in Old English. But unlike his predecessor, Æthelred lived long enough to reach majority and began to rule independently in 984. His reign however was marred with plenty of domestic issues, which the English King was often unable to address properly. Yet what is more important to our story, is that roughly at the time of Æthelred coming of age, England witnessed a resurgence of Norse raiding parties ravaging the English coast after many years of peace. At the beginning of these raids, carried out mostly by Danish Vikings and concentrating on the shores of Southern England, they were only moderately harmful. But as time passed, their frequency and reach increased, becoming a major problem for the poorly managed English kingdom. Æthelred made some attempts to aid the situation and when he found out that the Norse raiders sought winter quarters among their cousins in Normandy, he challenged its ruler Richard the Fearless by attacking the Cotentin peninsula. This brief conflict was eventually resolved thanks to papal intervention and proved that the English king wasn’t all that indecisive nor incompetent when taking action was necessary. Curiously, this strife between these rulers was probably the first diplomatic contact between England and Normandy. Yet this minor triumph didn’t end Æthelred’s problems with the Scandinavian invaders. Up until 991 the attacking parties consisted of small fleets, and were sometimes successfully repelled by Anglo-Saxon thegns. But in the summer of said year, dreadful news reached Winchester: a strong fleet of almost 100 longboats stormed and plundered Folkestone in Kent. Though sources only briefly mention that this assault was orchestrated by a Norse chieftain named Olaf, it’s fairly plausible to assume, that it was none other than Olaf Tryggvason, great-grandson of famous Harald Fairhair and future King of Norway. For Æthelred’s inadequate administration it posed as a serious issue that needed to be acted on swiftly. Shortly after the news of the Norse attack came in, Olaf’s fleet was already well underway, sailing north to plunder another prosperous Anglo-Saxon town. From Folkestone, Olaf’s fleet sailed north and entered the Blackwater estuary, planning to attack the busy port town of Maldon. They pitched a temporary camp on the Northey Island, which was only connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway, accessible only during low tide. It was a decent place to make a provisional base as it offered good defence opportunities if needed, but before Olaf could think about his next steps, a large East Saxon host was spotted arriving from the vicinity of Maldon. The forthcoming contingent was led by Byrhtnoth, Ealdorman of Essex, who happened to be camping near Maldon with his retinue at the time of Norse raid. Upon hearing reports of Olaf’s exploits in the area, he hastily mustered his men and gathered local fyrd, managing to amass an army of roughly 3,000 men in no time. Olaf was definitely surprised by this development, but being aware of the potential of his force, which was probably a bit more numerous, counting around 4,000 men, he shouted a demand for tribute across the flooded causeway. At the time, there was no single way of dealing with the Norse, and Anglo-Saxon lords either paid the invaders to leave or simply resorted to warfare to repel the enemy. As you might imagine, Byrhtnoth chose the latter solution, being confident of his favourable position on the mainland. Soon, the ebbing tide revealed the narrow passage, across which the Norsemen rushed trying to force their way into the mainland. In an attempt to prevent this, Byrhtnoth send a small unit of his own men to block the enemy. Fierce melee ensued and much to Olaf’s dismay, the East Saxon shieldwall stood firm, denying the Norsemen a foothold on the mainland. Seeing that the attack was going nowhere, Olaf eventually called his men back, in an attempt to avoid unnecessary losses. This was not the end of the battle though. Predicting that the initial victory had bolstered the morale of the Anglo-Saxon host, Olaf made an audacious request: he demanded a safe passage of his troops in order to resolve the conflict by fighting a pitched battle on equal terms. Unexpectedly, Byrhtnoth agreed and gave the Norse safe conduct through the land bridge. While the rationale of the East Saxon ealdorman remains unclear, he possibly could have been determined to take advantage of having the entire Viking army in one place and possibly annihilate the threat in one decisive blow. Whatever the true reason was, as soon as the last Norsemen arrived on the mainland and the battle lines were shaped, the two shieldwalls clashed in a bloody hand to hand combat. As it was common for the battles of this era, tactical sophistication was replaced by sheer power and brutality. Surprisingly for the Vikings, the Saxon line, consisting chiefly of local militia fought valiantly, yielding no ground and dealing fatal blows to many of the attacking Norsemen. This however came at a high cost, as many of Byrhtnoth’s men also perished in battle, which slowly turned into a mass-carnage. As neither side could be forced to flee, it was not until a fatal wound was received by Byrhtnoth, when the odds started to turn to Olaf’s favor. Eventually, with their commander fallen, line breaking and morale plummeting, the Anglo-Saxon troops fled the battlefield in disarray. The Norse army remained victorious on the battlefield, though the price of victory was considerable. It’s a hard task to estimate the casualties on either side, but Olaf had lost so many men that he had to forego his plans to attack the nearby town of Maldon. Byrhtnoth’s heroic but ultimately unsuccessful defence only temporarily halted the Viking invaders, who continued to ravage the English coast in subsequent months. Eventually, the ineffective administration of King Æthelred was forced to pay a hefty tribute of 10,000 pounds to be rid of the Norse raiders. Unfortunately for him, this was just the first instance of such a payment, which later became known as Danegeld. The viking attacks, both of Danish and Norwegian origin only increased in frequency, which resulted in a heavy burden of Æthelred’s kingdom and, eventually a grievous threat to Anglo-Saxon rule in England in the early 11th century.