NameCharles 'The Hammer' Martel Mayor of the Palace
Birth688, Heristal, Liege, Belgium
Death22 Oct 741, Quiérzy-sur-Oise, Aisne, France
BurialMonastery, St Denis, Seine, France
FatherPepin I of Austrasia (635-714)
MotherAlpaide (or Elphide) (~654-~705)
Misc. Notes
Known as "The Hammer," he was Mayor of the Palace and Frankish ruler; baptised by St. Rigobert, Bishop of Reims; ruled the Franks through Clothaire IV whom he made king of the Franks in name; consolidated his power in what is now France and laid the basis for the feudal system. "The characters of Charles Martel and his grandson Charlemagne offer many striking points of resemblance. Both were men of courage and activity, and the two men are often confused in the
`chansons de geste.'" {- Encycl. Brit., 1956, 5:293; cf. 9:599:} "Charles began the greatness of Austrasia...Frankish unity
was re-established. He then defended Gaul against the Frisians, the Alamanni and the Bohemians. ...Charles proved himself another soldier of the cross by repelling the Moorish invasion at Poitiers (732)...." He reigned 714-741 and is buried at St. Denis.

Weis" "Ancestral Roots. . ." (50:11), (190:11), (191:11). In 732, he defeated the Saracens at the Battle of Tours, ensuring that Europe would develope as a Christian, rather than an Islamic, continent. This was one of the most important battles faught in all the history of

Born about 688; died at Quierzy on the Oise, 21 October, 741. He was the natural son of Pepin of Herstal and a woman named Alpaïde or Chalpaïde. Pepin, who in 714, had outlived his two legitimate sons, Drogon and Grimoald, and to Theodoald, a son of the latter and then only six years old, fell the burdensome inheritance of the French monarchy. Charles, who was then twenty-six, was not excluded from the succession on account of his birth, Theodoald himself being the son of a concubine, but through the influence of Plectrude, Theodoald's
grandmother, who wished the power invested in her own descendants exclusively. To prevent any opposition from Charles she had him cast
into prison and, having established herself at Cologne, assumed the guardianship of her grandson. But the different nations whom the strong
hand of Pepin of Herstal had held in subjections, shook off the yoke of oppression as soon as they saw that it was with a woman they had to
deal. Neustria gave the signal for revolt (715), Theodoald was beaten in the forest of Cuise and, led by Raginfrid, mayor of the palace, the
enemy advanced as far as the Meuse. The Frisians flew to arms and, headed by their duke, Ratbod, destroyed the Christian mission and entered
into a confederacy with the Neustrians. The Saxons came and devastated the country of the Hattuarians, and even in Austrasia there was a certain
faction that chafed under the government of a woman and child. At this juncture Charles escaped from prison and put himself at the head of the
national party of Austrasia. At first he was unfortunate. He was defeated by Ratbod near Cologne in 716, and the Neustrians forced Plectrude to
acknowledge as king Chilperic, the son of Childeric II, having taken this Merovingian from the seclusion of the cloister, where he lived the name
of Daniel. But Charles was quick to take revenge. He surprised and conquered the Neustrians at Amblève near Malmédy (716), defeated them a
second time at Vincy near Cambrai (21 March, 717), and pursued them as far as Paris. Then retracing his steps, he came to Cologne and
compelled Plectrude to surrender her power and turn over to him the wealth of his father, Pepin. In order to give his recently acquired authority a
semblance of legitimacy, he proclaimed the Merovingian Clotaire IV King of Austrasia, reserving for himself the title of Mayor of the Palace. It
was about this time that Charles banished Rigobert, the Bishop of Reims, who had opposed him, appointing in his stead the warlike and
unpriestly Milon, who was already Archbishop of Trier.

The ensuing years were full of strife. Eager to chastise the Saxons who had invaded Austrasia, Charles in the year 718 laid waste their country to
the banks of the Weser. In 719 Ratbod died, and Charles seized Western Friesland without any great resistance on the part of the Frisians, who
had taken possession of it on the death of Pepin. The Neustrians, always a menace, had joined forces with the people of Aquitaine, but Charles
hacked their army to pieces at Soissons. After this defeat they realized the necessity of surrendering, and the death of King Clotaire IV, whom
Charles had placed on the throne but two years previously, facilitated reconciliation of the two great fractions of the Frankish Empire. Charles
acknowledged Chilperic as head of the entire monarchy, while on their side, the Neustrians and Aquitainians endorsed the authority of Charles;
but, when Chilperic died, the following year (720) Charles appointed as his successor the son of Dagobert III, Thierry IV, who was still a
minor, and who occupied the throne from 720 to 737. A second expedition against the Saxons in 720 and the definitive submission of Raginfrid,
who had been left the county of Angers (724), re-established the Frankish Monarchy as it had been under Pepin of Herstal, and closed the first
series of Charles Martel's struggles. The next six years were devoted almost exclusively to the confirming of the Frankish authority over the
dependent Germanic tribes. In 725 and 728 Charles went into Bavaria, where the Agilolfing dukes had gradually rendered themselves
independent, and re-established Frankish suzerainty. He also brought thence the Princess Suanehilde, who seems to have become his mistress.
In 730 he marched against Lantfrid, Duke of the Alemanna, whom he likewise brought into subjection, and thus Southern Germany once more
became part of the Frankish Empire, as had Northern Germany during the first years of the reign. But at the extremity of the empire a dreadful
storm was gathering. For several years the Moslems of Spain had been threatening Gaul. Banished thence in 721 by Duke Eudes, they had
returned in 725 and penetrated as far as Burgundy, where they had destroyed Autun. Duke Eudes, unable to resist them, at length contented
himself by negotiating with them, and to Othmar, one of their chiefs, he gave the hand of his daughter But this compromising alliance brought
him into disfavour with Charles, who defeated him in 731, and the death of Othmar that same year again left Eudes at the mercy of Moslem
enterprise. In 732 Abd-er-Rahman, Governor of Spain, crossed the Pyrenees at the head of an immense army, overcame Duke Eudes, and
advanced as far as the Loire, pillaging and burning as he went. In October, 732, Charles met Abd-er-Rahman outside of Tours and defeated and
slew him in a battle (the Battle of Poitiers) which must ever remain one of the great events in the history of the world, as upon its issue depended
whether Christian Civilization should continue or Islam prevail throughout Europe. It was this battle, it is said, that gave Charles his name,
Martel (Tudites) "The Hammer", because of the merciless way in which he smote the enemy.

The remainder of Charles Martel's reign was an uninterrupted series of triumphant combats. In 733-734 he suppressed the rebellion instigated by
the Frisian duke, Bobo, who was slain in battle, and definitively subdued Friesland, which finally adopted Christianity. In 735, after the death
of Eudes, Charles entered Aquitaine, quelled the revolt of Hatto and Hunold, sons of the deceased duke, and left the duchy to Hunold, to be held
in fief (736). He then banished the Moslems from Arles and Avignon, defeated their army on the River Berre near Narbonne, and in 739
checked an uprising in Provence, the rebels being under the leadership of Maurontus. So great was Charles' power during the last years of his
reign that he did not take the trouble to appoint a successor to King Thierry IV, who died in 737, but assumed full authority himself, governing
without legal right. About a year before Charles died, Pope Gregory III, threatened by Luitprand, King of Lombardy, asked his help. Now
Charles was Luitprand's ally because the latter had promised to assist him in the late war against the Moslems of Provence, and, moreover, the
Frankish king may have already suffered from the malady that was to carry him off—two reasons that are surely sufficient to account for the fact
that the pope's envoys departed without gaining the object of their errand. However, it would seem that, according to the terms of a public act
published by Charlemagne, Charles had, at least in principle, agreed to defend the Roman Church, and death alone must have prevented him
from fulfilling this agreement. The reign, which in the beginning was so full of bloody conflicts and later of such incessant strife, would have
been an impossibility had not Charles procured means sufficient to attract and compensate his partisans. For this purpose he conceived the idea
of giving them the usufruct of a great many ecclesiastical lands, and this spoliation is what is referred to as the secularization by Charles Martel.
It was an expedient that could be excused without, however, being justified, and it was pardoned to a certain extent by the amnesty granted at the
Council of Lestines, held under the sons of Charles Martel in 743. It must also be remembered that the Church remained the legal owner of the
lands thus alienated. This spoliation and the conferring of the principal ecclesiastical dignities upon those who were either totally unworthy or
else had naught but their military qualifications to recommend them—as, for instance, the assignment of the episcopal Sees of Reims of Reims
and Trier to Milon—were not calculated to endear Charles Martel to the clergy of his time. Therefore, in the ninth century Hincmar of Reims
related the story of the vision with which St. Eucher was said to have been favoured and which showed Charles in hell, to which he had been
condemned for robbing the Church of its property.

But notwithstanding the almost exclusively warlike character of his reign, Charles Martel was not indifferent to the superior interests of
civilization and Christianity. Like Napoleon after the French Revolution, upon emerging from the years 715-719, Charles, who had not only
tolerated but perpetrated many an act of violence against the Church, set about the establishment of social order and endeavoured to restore the
rights of the Catholic hierarchy. This explains the protection which in 723 he accorded St. Boniface (Winfrid), the great apostle of Germany, a
protection all the more salutary as the saint himself explained to his old friend, Daniel of Winchester, that without it he could neither administer his church, defend his clergy, nor prevent idolatry. Hence Charles Martel shares, to a certain degree, the glory and merit of Boniface's great work of civilization. He died after having divided the Frankish Empire, as a patrimony between his two sons, Carloman and Pepin.

References: [AR7],[RFC],[Weis1]
ChildrenPepin III (The Short) (714-768)
 Carloman (715-754)
 Aude (~730-804)
Last Modified 29 May 2001Created 4 Sep 2012 using Reunion for Macintosh