Charles Martel

Last updated

Charles Martel
Charles Martel 01.jpg
19th-century sculpture at the Palace of Versailles [1]
Duke and Prince of the Franks
Coronation 718
Predecessor Pepin of Herstal
Successor Pepin the Short
Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia
Predecessor Theudoald
Successor Carloman
Mayor of the Palace of Neustria
Predecessor Ragenfrid
Successor Pepin the Short
King of the Franks (acting)
Predecessor Theuderic IV
Successor Childeric III
Bornc. 688
Herstal, Belgium
Died22 October 741 (aged 5253)
Quierzy, Germany
House Pippinid
Carolingian (founder)
Father Pepin of Herstal
Mother Alpaida

Charles Martel (c. 688 [2] – 22 October 741) was a Frankish statesman and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was the de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. [3] [4] [5] He was a son of the Frankish statesman Pepin of Herstal and Pepin's mistress, a noblewoman named Alpaida. [6] Charles successfully asserted his claims to power as successor to his father as the power behind the throne in Frankish politics. Continuing and building on his father's work, he restored centralized government in Francia and began the series of military campaigns that re-established the Franks as the undisputed masters of all Gaul. According to a near-contemporary source, the Liber Historiae Francorum , Charles was "a warrior who was uncommonly [...] effective in battle". [7] Much attention has been paid to his success in defeating an Arab raid in Aquitaine at the Battle of Tours. Alongside his military endeavours, Charles has been traditionally credited with a seminal role in the development of the Frankish system of feudalism. [8]

Franks Germanic people

The Franks were a group of Germanic peoples, whose name was first mentioned in 3rd century Roman sources, associated with tribes on the Lower and Middle Rhine, on the edge of the Roman Empire. Later the term was associated with Romanized Germanic dynasties within the collapsing Western Roman Empire, who eventually commanded the whole region between the rivers Loire and Rhine. They then imposed power over many other post-Roman kingdoms and Germanic peoples, and still later they were given recognition by the Catholic Church as successors to the old rulers of the Western Roman Empire.

Under the Merovingian dynasty, the mayor of the palace or majordomo was the manager of the household of the Frankish king. The office existed from the sixth century, and during the seventh it evolved into the "power behind the throne" in the northeastern kingdom of Austrasia. In 751, the mayor of the palace, Pepin the Short, orchestrated the deposition of the king, Childeric III, and was crowned in his place.

Francia Territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Francia, also called the Kingdom of the Franks, or Frankish Empire, was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. It was ruled by the Franks during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. It is the predecessor of the modern states of France and Germany. After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, West Francia became the predecessor of France, and East Francia became that of Germany. Francia was among the last surviving Germanic kingdoms from the Migration Period era before its partition in 843.


At the end of his reign, Charles divided Francia between his sons, Carloman and Pepin. The latter became the first king of the Carolingian dynasty. Charles' grandson, Charlemagne, extended the Frankish realms, and became the first Emperor in the West since the fall of Rome. [9]

Carloman (mayor of the palace) Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia

Carloman was the eldest son of Charles Martel, majordomo or mayor of the palace and duke of the Franks, and his wife Chrotrud of Treves. On Charles's death (741), Carloman and his brother Pepin the Short succeeded to their father's legal positions, Carloman in Austrasia, and Pepin in Neustria. He was a member of the family later called the Carolingians and it can be argued that he was instrumental in consolidating their power at the expense of the ruling Merovingian kings of the Franks. He withdrew from public life in 747 to take up the monastic habit, "the first of a new type of saintly king," according to Norman Cantor, "more interested in religious devotion than royal power, who frequently appeared in the following three centuries and who was an indication of the growing impact of Christian piety on Germanic society".

Pepin the Short King of the Franks

Pepin the Short was the King of the Franks from 751 until his death. He was the first of the Carolingians to become king.

The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family founded by Charles Martel with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The dynasty consolidated its power in the 8th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary, and becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the Merovingian throne. In 751 the Merovingian dynasty which had ruled the Germanic Franks was overthrown with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy, and a Carolingian Pepin the Short was crowned King of the Franks. The Carolingian dynasty reached its peak in 800 with the crowning of Charlemagne as the first Emperor of Romans in the West in over three centuries. His death in 814 began an extended period of fragmentation of the Carolingian Empire and decline that would eventually lead to the evolution of the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire.


Charles, nicknamed "Martel", or "the Hammer", in later chronicles, was the son of Pepin of Herstal and his second wife Alpaida. He had a brother named Childebrand, who later became the Frankish dux (that is, duke) of Burgundy.

Pepin of Herstal Mayor of the Palace

Pepin II, commonly known as Pepin of Herstal, was a Frankish statesman and military leader who de facto ruled Francia as the Mayor of the Palace from 680 until his death. He took the title Duke and Prince of the Franks upon his conquest of all the Frankish realms.

Alpaida was a Frankish noblewoman who hailed from the Liège area. She became the mistress of Pippin of Herstal and mother to two sons by him, Charles Martel and Childebrand (678–751).

Childebrand I was a Frankish duke (dux), son of Pepin of Heristal and Alpaida, brother of Charles Martel. He married Emma of Austrasia and was given Burgundy by his father. He distinguished himself in the expulsion of the Saracens from France.

In older historiography, it was common to describe Charles as "illegitimate". But the dividing line between wives and concubines was not clear-cut in eighth-century Francia, and it is likely that the accusation of "illegitimacy" derives from the desire of Pepin's first wife Plectrude to see her progeny as heirs to Pepin's power. [10] [11]

Plectrude Frankish regent

Plectrude was the consort of Pepin of Herstal, the mayor of the palace and duke of the Franks, from about 670. She was the daughter of Hugobert, seneschal of Clovis IV, and Irmina of Oeren. She was the regent of Neustria during the minority of her grandson Theudoald from 714 until 718.

After the reign of Dagobert I (629–639) the Merovingians effectively ceded power to the Pippinid Mayors of the Palace, who ruled the Frankish realm of Austrasia in all but name. They controlled the royal treasury, dispensed patronage, and granted land and privileges in the name of the figurehead king. Charles' father, Pepin of Herstal, was able to unite the Frankish realm by conquering Neustria and Burgundy. He was the first to call himself Duke and Prince of the Franks, a title later taken up by Charles.

Dagobert I Frankish king

Dagobert I was the king of Austrasia (623–634), king of all the Franks (629–634), and king of Neustria and Burgundy (629–639). He was the last king of the Merovingian dynasty to wield any real royal power. Dagobert was the first of the Frankish kings to be buried in the royal tombs at Saint Denis Basilica.

Merovingian dynasty dynasty

The Merovingian dynasty was the ruling family of the Franks from the middle of the 5th century until 751. They first appear as "Kings of the Franks" in the Roman army of northern Gaul. By 509 they had united all the Franks and northern Gaulish Romans under their rule. They conquered most of Gaul, defeating the Visigoths (507) and the Burgundians (534), and also extended their rule into Raetia (537). In Germania, the Alemanni, Bavarii and Saxons accepted their lordship. The Merovingian realm was the largest and most powerful of the states of western Europe following the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Austrasia Medieval European territory

Austrasia, was a territory which formed the northeastern section of the Merovingian Kingdom of the Franks during the 6th to 8th centuries. It was centred on the Meuse, Middle Rhine and the Moselle rivers, and was the original territory of the Franks, including both the so-called Salians and Rhineland Franks, which Clovis I conquered after first taking control of the bordering part of Roman Gaul, now northern France, which is sometimes described in this period as Neustria.

Contesting for power

The Frankish kingdoms at the time of the death of Pepin of Heristal. Aquitaine (yellow) was outside Arnulfing authority and Neustria and Burgundy (pink) were united in opposition to further Arnulfing dominance of the highest offices. Only Austrasia (green) supported an Arnulfing mayor, first Theudoald then Charles. The German duchies to the east of the Rhine were de facto outside of Frankish suzerainty at this time. Francia at the death of Pepin of Heristal, 714.jpg
The Frankish kingdoms at the time of the death of Pepin of Heristal. Aquitaine (yellow) was outside Arnulfing authority and Neustria and Burgundy (pink) were united in opposition to further Arnulfing dominance of the highest offices. Only Austrasia (green) supported an Arnulfing mayor, first Theudoald then Charles. The German duchies to the east of the Rhine were de facto outside of Frankish suzerainty at this time.

In December 714, Pepin of Herstal died. [12] Prior to his death, he had, at his wife Plectrude's urging, designated Theudoald, his grandson by their late son Grimoald, his heir in the entire realm. This was immediately opposed by the nobles because Theudoald was a child of only eight years of age. To prevent Charles using this unrest to his own advantage, Plectrude had him imprisoned in Cologne, the city which was intended to be her capital. This prevented an uprising on his behalf in Austrasia, but not in Neustria.

Theudoald was the mayor of the palace, briefly unopposed in 714 after the death of his grandfather, Pepin of Herstal. Then in 715 the nobility acclaimed Ragenfrid mayor of Neustria and Charles Martel mayor of Austrasia.

Grimoald II, called the Younger, was the mayor of the palace of Neustria from 695. He was the second son of Pepin of Herstal and Plectrude and his father placed him in the office of mayor of the palace in the Neustrian kingdom in 695, when he was still young.

Cologne City in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Cologne is the largest city of Germany's most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the fourth most populous city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. With slightly over a million inhabitants within its city boundaries, Cologne is the largest city on the Rhine and also the most populous city both of the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region, which is Germany's largest and one of Europe's major metropolitan areas, and of the Rhineland. Centered on the left bank of the Rhine, Cologne is about 45 kilometres (28 mi) southeast of North Rhine-Westphalia's capital of Düsseldorf and 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of Bonn. It is the largest city in the Central Franconian and Ripuarian dialect areas.

Civil war of 715–718

Pepin's death occasioned open conflict between his heirs and the Neustrian nobles who sought political independence from Austrasian control. In 715, Dagobert III named Ragenfrid mayor of their palace, effectively declaring political independence. On 26 September 715, Ragenfrid's Neustrians met the young Theudoald's forces at the Battle of Compiegne. Theudoald was defeated and fled back to Cologne. Before the end of the year, Charles Martel had escaped from prison and been acclaimed mayor by the nobles of Austrasia. [12] That same year, Dagobert III died and the Neustrians proclaimed Chilperic II, the cloistered son of Childeric II, as king.

Battle of Cologne

In 716, Chilperic and Ragenfrid together led an army into Austrasia intent on seizing the Pippinid wealth at Cologne. The Neustrians allied with another invading force under Radbod, King of the Frisians and met Charles in battle near Cologne, which was still held by Plectrude. Charles had little time to gather men, or prepare, and the result was the only defeat of his career. The Frisians held off Charles, while the king and his mayor besieged Plectrude at Cologne, where she bought them off with a substantial portion of Pepin's treasure. Then they withdrew. [13]

Battle of Amblève

Charles retreated to the hills of the Eifel to gather men, and train them. Having made the proper preparations, in April 716, he fell upon the triumphant army near Malmedy as it was returning to its own province. In the ensuing Battle of Amblève, Martel attacked as the enemy rested at midday. According to one source, he split his forces into several groups which fell at them from many sides. [14] Another suggests that while this was his intention, he then decided, given the enemy's unpreparedness, this was not necessary. In any event, the suddenness of the assault lead them to believe they were facing a much larger host. Many of the enemy fled and Martel's troops gathered the spoils of the camp. Martel's reputation increased considerably as a result, and he attracted more followers. This battle is often considered by historians as the turning point in Charles's struggle. [15]

Battle of Vinchy

Richard Gerberding points out that up to this time, much of Martel's support was probably from his mother's kindred in the lands around Liege. After Amblève, he seems to have won the backing of the influential Willibrord, founder of the Abbey of Echternach. The abbey had been built on land donated by Plectrude's mother, Irmina of Oeren, but most of Willibrord's missionary work had been carried out in Frisia. In joining Chilperic and Ragenfrid, Radbod of Frisia sacked Utrecht, burning churches and killing many missionaries. Willibrord and his monks were forced to flee to Echternach. Gerberding suggests that Willibrord had decided that the chances of preserving his life's work were better with a successful field commander like Martel than with Plectrude in Cologne. Willibrord subsequently baptized Martel's son Pepin. Gerberding suggests a likely date of Easter 716. [16] Martel also received support from Bishop Pepo of Verdun.

Charles took time to rally more men and prepare. By the following spring, Charles had attracted enough support to invade Neustria. Charles sent an envoy who proposed a cessation of hostilities if Chilperic would recognize his rights as mayor of the palace in Austrasia. The refusal was not unexpected but served to impress upon Martel's forces the unreasonableness of the Neustrians. They met near Cambrai at the Battle of Vincy on 21 March 717. The victorious Martel pursued the fleeing king and mayor to Paris, but as he was not yet prepared to hold the city, he turned back to deal with Plectrude and Cologne. He took the city and dispersed her adherents. Plectrude was allowed to retire to a convent; Theudoald lived to 741 under his uncle's protection, a kindness unusual for those times, when mercy to a former gaoler, or a potential rival, was rare.[ citation needed ]

Consolidation of power

Upon this success, Charles proclaimed Chlothar IV king of Austrasia in opposition to Chilperic and deposed Rigobert, archbishop of Reims, replacing him with Milo, a lifelong supporter.

In 718, Chilperic responded to Charles' new ascendancy by making an alliance with Odo the Great (or Eudes, as he is sometimes known), the duke of Aquitaine, who had become independent during the civil war in 715, but was again defeated, at the Battle of Soissons, by Charles. [17] Chilperic fled with his ducal ally to the land south of the Loire and Ragenfrid fled to Angers. Soon Chlotar IV died and Odo surrendered King Chilperic in exchange for Charles recognizing his dukedom. Charles recognized Chilperic as king of the Franks in return for legitimate royal affirmation of his own mayoralty over all the kingdoms.

Wars of 718–732

The Saracen Army outside Paris, 730-32, in an early-nineteenth-century depiction by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. The Saracen Army outside Paris, 730-32 AD.png
The Saracen Army outside Paris, 730–32, in an early-nineteenth-century depiction by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.

Between 718 and 723, Charles secured his power through a series of victories. Having unified the Franks under his banner, Charles was determined to punish the Saxons who had invaded Austrasia. Therefore, late in 718, he laid waste their country to the banks of the Weser, the Lippe, and the Ruhr. [12] He defeated them in the Teutoburg Forest and thus secured the Frankish border in the name of King Chlotaire.

When the Frisian leader Radbod died in 719, Charles seized West Frisia without any great resistance on the part of the Frisians, who had been subjected to the Franks but had rebelled upon the death of Pippin. When Chilperic II died the following year (720), Charles appointed as his successor the son of Dagobert III, Theuderic IV, who was still a minor, and who occupied the throne from 720 to 737 Charles was now appointing the kings whom he supposedly served, rois fainéants who were mere figureheads; by the end of his reign he didn't appoint one at all. At this time, Charles again marched against the Saxons. Then the Neustrians rebelled under Ragenfrid, who had left the county of Anjou. They were easily defeated (724), but Ragenfrid gave up his sons as hostages in turn for keeping his county. This ended the civil wars of Charles' reign.

The next six years were devoted in their entirety to assuring Frankish authority over the neighbouring political groups. Between 720 and 723, Charles was fighting in Bavaria, where the Agilolfing dukes had gradually evolved into independent rulers, recently in alliance with Liutprand the Lombard. He forced the Alemanni to accompany him, and Duke Hugbert submitted to Frankish suzerainty. In 725 he brought back the Agilolfing Princess Swanachild as a second wife.

In 725 and 728, he again entered Bavaria, but in 730, he marched against Lantfrid, Duke of Alemannia, who had also become independent, and killed him in battle. He forced the Alemanni to capitulate to Frankish suzerainty and did not appoint a successor to Lantfrid. Thus, southern Germany once more became part of the Frankish kingdom, as had northern Germany during the first years of the reign.

Aquitaine and the Battle of Tours in 732

In 731, after defeating the Saxons, Charles turned his attention to the rival southern realm of Aquitaine, and crossed the Loire, breaking the treaty with Duke Odo. The Franks ransacked Aquitaine twice, and captured Bourges, although Odo retook it. The Continuations of Fredegar allege that Odo called on assistance from the recently established emirate of al-Andalus, but there had been Arab raids into Aquitaine from the 720s onwards: indeed, in 721 the Chronicle of 754 records a victory of Odo at the Battle of Toulouse, while the Liber Pontificalis records that Odo had killed 375,000 Saracens. [18] It is more likely that this invasion or raid took place in revenge for Odo's support for a rebel Berber leader named Munnuza.

Whatever the precise circumstances, it is clear that an army under the leadership of Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi headed north, and after some minor engagements marched on the wealthy city of Tours. According to British medieval historian Paul Fouracre, "Their campaign should perhaps be interpreted as a long-distance raid rather than the beginning of a war". [19] They were however defeated by the army of Charles at a location between Tours and Poitiers, in a victory described by the Continuations of Fredegar. News of this battle spread, and may be recorded in Bede's Ecclesiastical History (Book V, ch. 23). However, it is not given prominence in Arabic sources from the period. [20]

Despite his victory, Charles did not gain full control of Aquitaine, and Odo remained duke until his death in 735.

Wars of 732–737

Charles Martel's military campaigns in Aquitaine, Septimania and Provence after the Battle of Tour-Poitiers (734-742) Vasconia wide 740 3 - 80.jpg
Charles Martel's military campaigns in Aquitaine, Septimania and Provence after the Battle of Tour-Poitiers (734–742)
Charles Martel depicted in the French book "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum" by Guillaume Rouille, published in 1553 Carolus-Martell.jpg
Charles Martel depicted in the French book "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum" by Guillaume Rouillé, published in 1553

Between his victory of 732 and 735, Charles reorganized the kingdom of Burgundy, replacing the counts and dukes with his loyal supporters, thus strengthening his hold on power. He was forced, by the ventures of Bubo, Duke of the Frisians, to invade independent-minded Frisia again in 734. In that year, he slew the duke at the Battle of the Boarn. Charles ordered the Frisian pagan shrines destroyed, and so wholly subjugated the populace that the region was peaceful for twenty years after.

In 735, Duke Odo of Aquitaine died. Though Charles wished to rule the duchy directly and went there to elicit the submission of the Aquitainians, the aristocracy proclaimed Odo's son, Hunald I of Aquitaine, as duke, and Charles and Hunald eventually recognised each other's position.


In 737, at the tail end of his campaigning in Provence and Septimania, the Merovingian king, Theuderic IV, died. Charles, titling himself maior domus and princeps et dux Francorum, did not appoint a new king and nobody acclaimed one. The throne lay vacant until Charles' death. The interregnum, the final four years of Charles' life, was more peaceful than most of it had been but in 738, he compelled the Saxons of Westphalia to submit and pay tribute, and in 739 he checked an uprising in Provence, the rebels being under the leadership of Maurontus.

Charles used the relative peace to set about integrating the outlying realms of his empire into the Frankish church. He erected four dioceses in Bavaria (Salzburg, Regensburg, Freising, and Passau) and gave them Boniface as archbishop and metropolitan over all Germany east of the Rhine, with his seat at Mainz. Boniface had been under his protection from 723 on; indeed 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.

In 739, Pope Gregory III begged Charles for his aid against Liutprand, but Charles was loath to fight his onetime ally and ignored the plea. Nonetheless, the pope's request for Frankish protection showed how far Charles had come from the days he was tottering on excommunication, and set the stage for his son and grandson to assert themselves in the peninsula.

Death and transition in rule

14th-century depiction of the death of Charles Martel Charles Martel bad.jpg
14th-century depiction of the death of Charles Martel

Charles Martel died on 22 October 741, at Quierzy-sur-Oise in what is today the Aisne département in the Picardy region of France. He was buried at Saint Denis Basilica in Paris. [21]

His territories had been divided among his adult sons a year earlier: to Carloman he gave Austrasia, Alemannia, and Thuringia, and to Pippin the Younger Neustria, Burgundy, Provence, and Metz and Trier in the "Mosel duchy"; Grifo was given several lands throughout the kingdom, but at a later date, just before Charles died. [22] :50


At the beginning of Charles Martel's career, he had many internal opponents and felt the need to appoint his own kingly claimant, Chlotar IV. By his end, however, the dynamics of rulership in Francia had changed, and no hallowed Merovingian ruler was required. Charles divided his realm between his sons without opposition (though he ignored his young son Bernard). For many historians, Charles Martel laid the foundations for his son Pepin's rise to the Frankish throne in 751, and his grandson Charlemagne's imperial acclamation in 800. However, for Paul Fouracre, while Charles was "the most effective military leader in Francia", his career "finished on a note of unfinished business". [23]

Charles Martel divides the realm between Pepin and Carloman. Grandes Chroniques de France. Bibliotheque Nationale. Charles Martel divise le royaume entre Pepin et Carloman.jpg
Charles Martel divides the realm between Pepin and Carloman. Grandes Chroniques de France. Bibliothèque Nationale.

Family and children

Charles Martel married twice, his first wife being Rotrude of Treves, daughter either of Lambert II, Count of Hesbaye, or of Leudwinus, Count of Treves. They had the following children:

Most of the children married and had issue. Hiltrud married Odilo I (a Duke of Bavaria). Landrade was once believed to have married a Sigrand (Count of Hesbania) but Sigrand's wife was more likely the sister of Rotrude. Auda married Thierry IV (a Count of Autun and Toulouse). Charles also married a second time, to Swanhild, and they had a child, Grifo. [22] :50

Finally, Charles Martel also had a known mistress, Ruodhaid, with whom he had children Bernard, Hieronymus, and Remigius. Remigius became an archbishop of Rouen.

Reputation and historiography

For early medieval authors, Charles Martel was famous for his military victories. Paul the Deacon for instance attributed a victory against the Saracens actually won by Odo of Aquitaine to Charles. [24] However, alongside this there soon developed a darker reputation, for his alleged abuse of church property. A ninth-century text, the Visio Eucherii, possibly written by Hincmar of Reims, portrayed Martel as suffering in hell for this reason. [25] According to British medieval historian Paul Fouracre, this was "the single most important text in the construction of Charles Martel's reputation as a seculariser or despoiler of church lands". [26]

By the eighteenth century, historians such as Edward Gibbon had begun to portray the Frankish leader as the saviour of Christian Europe from a full-scale Islamic invasion. In Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire he wonders whether without Charles' victory, "Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford". [27]

In the nineteenth century, the German historian Heinrich Brunner argued that Charles had confiscated church lands in order to fund military reforms that allowed him to defeat the Arab conquests, in this way brilliantly combining two traditions about the ruler. But Fouracre has argued that "...there is not enough evidence to show that there was a decisive change either in the way in which the Franks fought, or in the way in which they organised the resources needed to support their warriors." [28]

Many twentieth-century European historians continued to develop Gibbon's perspectives, such as French medievalist Christian Pfister, who wrote in 1911 that

"Besides establishing a certain unity in Gaul, Charles saved it from a great peril. In 711 the Arabs had conquered Spain. In 720 they crossed the Pyrenees, seized Narbonensis, a dependency of the kingdom of the Visigoths, and advanced on Gaul. By his able policy Odo succeeded in arresting their progress for some years; but a new vali, Abdur Rahman, a member of an extremely fanatical sect, resumed the attack, reached Poitiers, and advanced on Tours, the holy town of Gaul. In October 732—just 100 years after the death of Mahomet—Charles gained a brilliant victory over Abdur Rahman, who was called back to Africa by revolts of the Berbers and had to give up the struggle. ...After his victory, Charles took the offensive". [29]

Similarly, William E. Watson who wrote of the battle's importance in Frankish and world history in 1993, suggested that

"Had Charles Martel suffered at Tours-Poitiers the fate of King Roderick at the Rio Barbate, it is doubtful that a "do-nothing" sovereign of the Merovingian realm could have later succeeded where his talented major domus had failed. Indeed, as Charles was the progenitor of the Carolingian line of Frankish rulers and grandfather of Charlemagne, one can even say with a degree of certainty that the subsequent history of the West would have proceeded along vastly different currents had ‘Abd al-Rahman been victorious at Tours-Poitiers in 732." [30]

Other recent historians however argue that the importance of the battle is dramatically overstated, both for European history in general and for Charles Martel's reign in particular. This view is typified by Alessandro Barbero, who in 2004 wrote,

"Today, historians tend to play down the significance of the battle of Poitiers, pointing out that the purpose of the Arab force defeated by Charles Martel was not to conquer the Frankish kingdom, but simply to pillage the wealthy monastery of St-Martin of Tours". [31]

Similarly, in 2002 Tomaž Mastnak wrote:

"The continuators of Fredegar's chronicle, who probably wrote in the mid-eighth century, pictured the battle as just one of many military encounters between Christians and Saracens—moreover, as only one in a series of wars fought by Frankish princes for booty and territory... One of Fredegar's continuators presented the battle of Poitiers as what it really was: an episode in the struggle between Christian princes as the Carolingians strove to bring Aquitaine under their rule." [32]

More recently, the memory of Charles Martel has been appropriated by far right and white nationalist groups, such as the 'Charles Martel Group' in France, and by Australia-born Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the alleged perpetrator of the Christchurch mosque shootings at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019. [33]

Related Research Articles

The 710s decade ran from January 1, 710, to December 31, 719.

716 Year

Year 716 (DCCXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 716 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Neustria western part of the kingdom of the Franks

Neustria, or Neustrasia, was the western part of the Kingdom of the Franks.

Chilperic II King of Neustria

Chilperic II, known as Daniel prior to his coronation, was the youngest son of Childeric II and his half-cousin, king of Neustria from 715 and sole king of the Franks from 718 until his death.

Theuderic III King of the Franks

Theuderic III (c.651–691) was the king of Neustria on two occasions and king of Austrasia from 679 to his death in 691. Thus, he was the king of all the Franks from 679. The son of Clovis II and Balthild, he has been described as a puppet – a roi fainéant – of Ebroin, the Mayor of the Palace, who may have even appointed him without the support of the nobles.

Odo the Great, was the Duke of Aquitaine by 700. His territory included the Vasconia in the south-west of Gaul and the Duchy of Aquitaine, a realm extending from the Loire to the Pyrenees, with the capital in Toulouse. He fought the Carolingian Franks and made alliances with the Moors to combat them. He retained this domain until his abdication in 735. He is remembered for defeating the Umayyads in 721 as they advanced down the Garonne through Aquitaine. He was the first to defeat them decisively in Western Europe. The feat earned him the epithet "The Great".

Chlothar IV King of Austrasia

Chlothar IV was the king of Austrasia from 717 until his death. He was a member of the Merovingian dynasty, and was installed by Charles Martel, a candidate for the office of mayor of the palace, in opposition to Chilperic II, whose realm was thus reduced to Neustria. This marks the first time since 679 that the kingdom of the Franks was divided. Following Chlothar's death, it was reunited under Chilperic.

The Battle of Compiègne was fought on 26 September 715 and was the first definite battle of the civil war which followed the death of Pepin of Heristal, Duke of the Franks, on 16 December 714.

Ragenfrid was the mayor of the palace of Neustria and Burgundy from 715, when he filled the vacuum in Neustria caused by the death of Pepin of Heristal, until 718, when Charles Martel finally established himself over the whole Frankish kingdom.

Battle of Tertry battle

The Battle of Tertry was an important engagement in Merovingian Gaul between the forces of Austrasia under Pepin II on one side and those of Neustria and Burgundy on the other. It took place in 687 at Tertry, Somme, and the battle is presented as an heroic account in the Annales mettenses priores. After achieving victory on the battlefield at Tertry, the Austrasians dictated the political future of the Neustrians.

The Battle of Amblève took place in 716 near Amel. The mayor of the palace of Austrasia, Charles Martel, defeated his Neustrian and Frisian rivals who were led by King Chilperic II, his mayor Ragenfrid, and Radbod, Duke of the Frisians. It was the first major victory of Martel in a long career of victories. In this battle Martel began demonstrating the military genius which would mark the remainder of his life.

The Battle of Cologne was fought near the city of Köln in the year 716. The battle is known chiefly as the first battle of Charles Martel's command and is the only defeat of his life.

The Battle of Soissons of 718 was the last of the great pitched battles of the civil war between the heirs of Pepin of Heristal. Since Pepin's death in December 714, his grandson and heir Theudoald, his widow Plectrude, his bastard son Charles Martel, his successor as mayor of the palace in Neustria Ragenfrid, and the new king Chilperic II had been waging a war for ascendancy. Though Ragenfrid and Chilperic had begun with successes and Plectrude and Theudoald were removed early, Martel turned the tide of war and eventually forced the surrender of all his opponents.

The Annales Mettenses (priores) or (Earlier) Annals of Metz are a set of Reichsannalen covering the period from the rise of Pepin of Heristal in Austrasia to the time of the writing, surviving as part of a wider compilation including, among other texts, the full entries of the Royal Frankish Annals for the years 806–829.


  1. This sculpture was located in the Palace of Versailles. By Debaye, pere, sculpted marble, 1839, first displayed at the Salon in 1839. Height 2.09 m. Soulié (1855), op. cit.
  2. Paul Fouracre, The Age of Charles Martel, (Routledge, 2000), ix.
  3. Schulman, Jana K. (2002). The Rise of the Medieval World, 500–1300: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 101. ISBN   0-313-30817-9.
  4. Cawthorne, Nigel (2004). Military Commanders: The 100 Greatest Throughout History. Enchanted Lion Books. pp. 52–53. ISBN   1-59270-029-2.
  5. Kibler, William W.; Zinn, Grover A. (1995). Medieval France: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 205–206. ISBN   0-8240-4444-4.
  6. Commire, Anne, ed. (2002). "Alphaida (c. 654–c. 714)". Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Waterford, Connecticut: Yorkin Publications. ISBN   0-7876-4074-3. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. Late Merovingian France : history and hagiography, 640-720. Fouracre, Paul., Gerberding, Richard A. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 1996. p. 93. ISBN   0719047900. OCLC   32699266.CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. White, Jr., Lynn (1962). Medieval technology and social change. London, England: Oxford University Press. pp. 2–14.
  9. Fouracre, Paul (2000) The Age of Charles Martel, London, GBR: Longman, see ISBN   0-582-06475-9, see , accessed 2 August 2015.[ page needed ]
  10. Joch, Waltraud (1999). Legitimität und Integration: Untersuchungen zu den Anfängen Karl Martells. Husum, Germany: Matthiesen Verlag.
  11. Gerberding, Richard A. (October 2002). "Review of Legitimität und Integration: Untersuchungen zu den Anfängen Karl Martells by Waltraud Joch". Speculum. 77 (4). pp. 1322–1323.
  12. 1 2 3 Kurth, Godefroid. "The Franks." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909
  13. Costambeys, Marios; Matthew Innes & MacLean, Simon (2011) The Carolingian World, p. 43, Cambridge, GBR: Cambridge University Press, see , accessed 2 August 2015.
  14. Daniel, Gabriel. The History of France, G. Strahan, 1726, p. 148]
  15. Paul., Fouracre, (2000). The age of Charles Martel. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 61. ISBN   0582064759. OCLC   43634337.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  16. Gerberding, Richard. "716: A Crucial Year For Charles Martel",, November 3, 2014
  17. Strauss, Gustave Louis M. (1854) Moslem and Frank; or, Charles Martel and the rescue of Europe, Oxford, GBR:Oxford University Press, see , accessed 2 August 2015.[ page needed ]
  18. Paul., Fouracre, (2000). The age of Charles Martel. Harlow, England: Longman. pp. 84–5. ISBN   0582064759. OCLC   43634337.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  19. Paul., Fouracre, (2000). The age of Charles Martel. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 88. ISBN   0582064759. OCLC   43634337.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  20. Christys, Ann (4 April 2019), Esders, Stefan; Fox, Yaniv; Hen, Yitzhak; Sarti, Laury (eds.), "'Sons of Ishmael, Turn Back!'", East and West in the Early Middle Ages (1 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 318–328, doi:10.1017/9781316941072.021, ISBN   9781316941072 , retrieved 7 May 2019
  21. "History of the Monument". BASILIQUE CATHÉDRALE DE SAINT-DENIS. BASILIQUE CATHÉDRALE DE SAINT-DENIS. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  22. 1 2 3 4 Riche, Pierre (1993) The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe, [Michael Idomir Allen, transl.], Philadelphia, PA, USA: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN   0-8122-1342-4, see , accessed 2 August 2015.
  23. Paul Fouracre, 'Writing about Charles Martel', in Law, Laity and Solidarities: essays in honour of Susan Reynolds, ed. Pauline Stafford et al. (Manchester, 2001), pp. 12-26.
  24. Paul., Fouracre, (2000). The age of Charles Martel. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 85. ISBN   0582064759. OCLC   43634337.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  25. 1950-, Wood, I. N. (Ian N.), (1994). The Merovingian kingdoms, 450-751. London: Longman. ISBN   0582218780. OCLC   27172340.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) pp. 275-6
  26. Paul., Fouracre, (2000). The age of Charles Martel. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 124. ISBN   0582064759. OCLC   43634337.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  27. "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".
  28. Paul., Fouracre, (2000). The age of Charles Martel. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 149. ISBN   0582064759. OCLC   43634337.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  29. Pfister, Christian (1911). Encyclopedia Britannica.
  30. Watson, William (1993). "The Battle of Tours-Poitiers Revisited". Providence: Studies in Western Civilization. 2.
  31. Alessandro., Barbero, (2004). Charlemagne : father of a continent. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN   0520239431. OCLC   52773483.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) p.10
  32. Tomaž., Mastnak, (2002). Crusading peace : Christendom, the Muslim world, and Western political order. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. ISBN   9780520925991. OCLC   52861403.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  33. "Perspective | The fake history that fueled the accused Christchurch shooter". Washington Post. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
Charles Martel
Carolingian Dynasty
Born: 688 Died: 741
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Pepin II the Middle
Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Mayor of the Palace of Neustria
Succeeded by
Pepin the Short
Preceded by
Theuderic IV
King of the Franks

Succeeded by
Childeric III