Charles Martel


Charles Martel
/mahr tel"/; Fr. /mannrdd tel"/
A.D. 690?-741, ruler of the Franks 714-741 (grandfather of Charlemagne).

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Latin Carolus Martellus ("Charles the Hammer")

born с 688
died Oct. 22, 741, Quierzy-sur-Oise, Fr.

Carolingian mayor of the palace (715–41).

He was a child born out of wedlock to Pippin of Herstal, mayor of the palace and virtual ruler of the Frankish realm in the waning days of the Merovingian dynasty. On his father's death he overcame family opposition and rivals among the nobility to reunite and rule the entire Frankish realm. He subdued Neustria (724), attacked Aquitaine, and fought against the Frisians, Saxons, and Bavarians. His victory at the Battle of Tours/Poitiers (732) stemmed the Muslim invasion, and he controlled Burgundy by 739. He also supported the activities of St. Boniface and other missionaries. In Frankish royal tradition, he divided the kingdom between his sons Pippin III and Carloman who succeeded him as mayor; his grandson was Charlemagne.

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▪ Frankish ruler
Latin  Carolus Martellus , German  Karl Martell 
born c. 688
died Oct. 22, 741, Quierzy-sur-Oise [France]

      mayor of the palace of Austrasia (the eastern part of the Frankish kingdom) from 715 to 741. He reunited and ruled the entire Frankish realm and stemmed the Muslim invasion at Poitiers in 732. His byname, Martel, means “the hammer.”

      Charles was the illegitimate son of Pippin II of Herstal (Pippin II), the mayor of the palace of Austrasia. By this period the Merovingian kings of the Frankish realm were rulers in name only. The burden of rule lay upon the mayors of the palace, who governed Austrasia, the eastern part of the Frankish kingdom, and Neustria, its western portion. Neustria bitterly resented its conquest and annexation in 687 by Pippin, who, acting in the name of the king, had reorganized and reunified the Frankish realm.

      The assassination of Pippin's only surviving legitimate son in 714 was followed a few months later by the death of Pippin himself. Pippin left as heirs three grandsons, and, until they came of age, Plectrude, Pippin's widow, was to hold power. As an illegitimate son, Charles Martel was entirely neglected in the will. But he was young, strong, and determined, and an intense struggle for power at once broke out in the Frankish kingdom.

      Both Charles and Plectrude faced rebellion throughout the Frankish kingdom when Pippin's will was made known. The king, Chilperic II, was in the power of Ragenfrid, mayor of the palace of Neustria, who joined forces with the Frisians in Holland in order to eliminate Charles. Plectrude imprisoned Charles and tried to govern in the name of her grandchildren, but Charles escaped, gathered an army, and defeated the Neustrians in battles at Amblève near Liège (716) and at Vincy near Cambrai (717). His success made resistance by Plectrude and the Austrasians useless; they submitted, and by 719 Charles alone governed the Franks as mayor.

      Assured of Austrasia, Charles now attacked Neustria itself, finally subduing it in 724. This freed Charles to deal with hostile elements elsewhere. He attacked Aquitaine, whose ruler, Eudes (Odo), had been an ally of Ragenfrid, but Charles did not gain effective control of southern France until late in his reign. He also conducted long campaigns, some as late as the 730s, against the Frisians, Saxons, and Bavarians, whose brigandage endangered the eastern frontiers of his kingdom. In order to consolidate his military gains, Charles supported St. Boniface (Boniface, Saint) and other missionaries in their efforts to convert the German tribes on the eastern frontier to Christianity.

      Ever since their arrival in Spain from Africa in 711, the Muslims had raided Frankish territory, threatening Gaul and on one occasion (725) reaching Burgundy and sacking Autun. In 732 ʿAbd ar-Raḥmān, the governor of Córdoba, marched into Bordeaux and defeated Eudes. The Muslims then proceeded north across Aquitaine to the city of Poitiers. Eudes appealed to Charles for assistance, and Charles's cavalry managed to turn back the Muslim onslaught at the Battle of Tours (Tours, Battle of). The battle itself may have been only a series of small engagements, but after it there were no more great Muslim invasions of Frankish territory.

      In 733 Charles began his campaigns to force Burgundy to yield to his rule. In 735 word arrived that Eudes was dead, and Charles marched rapidly across the Loire River in order to make his power felt around Bordeaux. By 739 he had completely subdued the petty chieftains of Burgundy, and he continued to fend off Muslim advances into Gaul during the decade.

      Charles's health began to fail in the late 730s, and in 741 he retired to his palace at Quierzy-sur-Oise, where he died soon after. Before his death he divided the Merovingian kingdom between his two legitimate sons, Pippin (Pippin III) III and Carloman. He continued to maintain the fiction of Merovingian rule, refraining from transferring the royal title to his own dynasty.

Eleanor Shipley Duckett Ed.

Additional Reading
There is no modern biography; indispensable works on early Frankish history include J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West, 400–1000, 3rd rev. ed. (1967, reissued 1985), and The Long-Haired Kings and Other Studies in Frankish History (1962, reprinted as The Long-Haired Kings, 1982).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Charles-Martel — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Martel. Tombe de Charles Martel dans la Basilique de Saint Denis …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Martel — • French monarch, born about 688; died at Quierzy on the Oise, 21 October, 741 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Charles Martel     Charles Martel      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • CHARLES MARTEL — (688 env. 741) Fils de Pépin d’Herstal, Charles Martel apparaît dans l’histoire au lendemain de la mort de son père (déc. 714), qui déclencha des troubles violents dans le royaume franc: Neustriens et Aquitains alliés aux Frisons et aux Saxons… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Charles Martel — see MARTEL Charles …   English World dictionary

  • Charles Martel — This article is about the Frankish Ruler. For other uses, see Charles Martel (disambiguation). Charles Martel, Frankish ruler Charles Martel is primarily famous fo …   Wikipedia

  • Charles Martel — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Martel. Charles Martel …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Martel — (d. 741)    Son of Pippin II of Herstal and father of Pippin III the Short, Charles, later known as Martel (the Hammer), was an important Carolingian mayor of the palace, whose reign, after a difficult beginning, marked a significant step in the… …   Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe

  • Charles Martel — Charles′ Mar•tel′ [[t]mɑrˈtɛl[/t]] n. anh big a.d. 690?–741, ruler of the Franks 714–741 (grandfather of Charlemagne) …   From formal English to slang

  • CHARLES MARTEL —    (i. e. Charles the Hammer ), son of Pépin d Héristal and grandfather of Charlemagne; became mayor of the Palace, and as such ruler of the Franks; notable chiefly for his signal victory over the Saracens at Poitiers in 732, whereby the tide of… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Charles Martel — biographical name circa 688 741 grandfather of Charlemagne Frankish ruler (719 741) …   New Collegiate Dictionary


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