Charles Martel (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Through skill, good fortune, and ruthless ambition, Charles Martel rose to dominate the kingdom of the Franks and its weak Merovingian kings, laying the groundwork for his son Pippin to be recognized as the first Carolingian king of the Franks and for his grandson Charlemagne to emerge as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Charles not only founded the Carolingian dynasty but also led Frankish forces to check the Muslim advance into southern France in 732, achieving fame in the Battle of Tours and earning the surname Martel (“the Hammer”).
In 687, two years before Charles was born, his father, Pippin of Herstal (Pippin II), became sole “mayor of the palace” after defeating his Neustrian rival near Aachen. This position gave Pippin, an Austrasian, dominant power in the Frankish kingdom. A weak series of kings of the Merovingian family held mainly symbolic power during the seventh century under strong mayors (a term that meant “first man of the house”) who controlled land appointments and government policies. Charles’s mother, Apaida, was part of a large landholding family in the lower valley of the Muese. The land bordered the area under the direct control of Pippin’s family.
Although a marriage contract was drawn between Pippin and Apaida, Pippin was already married to Plectrude, who had borne him three sons. Although polygamy was still common among higher noble...
(The entire section is 2073 words.)
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Charles Martel (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Through his campaigns, Charles reunited the Frankish kingdom, won a celebrated victory over invading Muslims in October, 732, and expanded Frankish control over other Germanic tribes.
The illegitimate child of Pépin II of Hérstal, the Frankish mayor of the palace in Austrasia and Neustria, Charles Martel was imprisoned by Plectrude, Pépin’s widow, after Pépin’s death in 714. When Neustria rebelled, however, Charles escaped and, with an Austrasian army, defeated the Neustrians in 717 and again in 719. Charles thus acquired his father’s position as actual ruler of the Franks, whose Merovingian kings had become only figureheads, and he asserted at least nominal Frankish authority in Burgundy and Aquitaine. To safeguard his eastern and northern borders, Charles, a Christian, led the Franks in various wars from 719 to 738 against such polytheistic tribes as the Saxons, and he assisted the missionary efforts of the English monk Boniface.
Charles is best known for his military struggle against Muslims. Most notably, during October, 732, in the Battle of Tours, fought at Moussais-la-Bataille, near Poitiers, Charles led Frankish and German infantrymen to victory against 70,000 to 80,000 Moorish invaders. The viceroy of Hispania, ʿAbd-ar-Rahmān, died in this battle, and his mounted troops retreated toward the Pyrenees. Later, however, Charles again fought Muslims who had invaded his...
(The entire section is 287 words.)