The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins. — H. L. Mencken

Charles Martel

686–741
Civilization: European — Frank
   Field of Renown:  monarch — Mayor
Era:  Carolingian

Charles Martel
CHARLES THE HAMMER
Charles Martel—literally, "Charles the Hammer"—was an important military and political leader who, although he never claimed any throne for himself, effectively ruled all of the Frankish kingdoms by the end of his reign. He was born the illegitimate son of duke Pepin II, and after his father's death he was imprisoned in Cologne to prevent him from seizing power during the period of political unrest that followed the Duke's passing. Only a year later, a civil war broke out, and Charles escaped; still much loved by the Austrasian nobles, they made him their mayor. When the opposing army—the Neustrians—invaded, Charles prepared to meet them but found himself grossly outnumbered. The Battle of Cologne was a disastrous one for Charles, but it would the only loss in his long and successful military career.

One year after his defeat at Cologne, Charles and his army returned and defeated the Neustrains in the decisive Battle of Vincy. He then set out to deal with Plectrude, the late Duke's wife and his original jailer. He took her city and dispersed her followers, but in a show of kindness rare in those times, he allowed her and her young son to live. Next, he turned his attention outward, focusing his campaigns on the dependent Germanic tribes until all of Germany was once more a part of the Frankish kingdom. During these campaigns, he also appointed new rulers, either boys too young to reign or weak men over whom he could assert his own decisions. Once his realm was secure, Charles began to train his men relentlessly as he prepared for an attack from the Islamic south. This attack came in 732, when a Muslim force from Cordoba beseiged Aquitaine and forced its duke, Odo, to seek Charles' aid. The resulting battle was the Battle of Tours, during which Charles was given the epithet "Martel" to denote the brutal way in which he hammered his enemies.

After his victory at Tours, Charles led his armies against the southern and eastern duchies of the Frankish kingdom. Wherever he won a battle, he reorganized the government and established himself as overlord. Then, in 737, the king of the Franks, Theudric IV, died, leading to a period during which no man was proclaimed ruler. During this time, of course, Charles continued to hold the real power, and only after his death was a new king chosen. These last four years were very peaceful, and by the time of his own death in 741, he was one of the most powerful military leaders in Europe.


Key events during the life of Charles Martel:


Year
Event
686
Born the illegitimate son of Pepin II
714
Imprisoned by Plectrude following the death of his father
715
Escaped from prison during a Frankish civil war
716
Lost the Battle of Cologne
717
Defeated Neustrians in the Battle of Vincy
720-730
Campaigns in Germany
732
Battle of Tours
737-741
Ruled de facto during a period of political unrest
739
Offered the title of Consul but refused
741
Died.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Moorish Invasion  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Rise of the Franks  in  Stories from German History  by   Florence Aston
The Conquest  in  A Child's History of Spain  by  John Bonner
Merovings and Carlovings  in  France: Peeps at History  by  John Finnemore
Saracens Checked  in  The Story of Old France  by  H. A. Guerber
Charles Martel and Pepin  in  Famous Men of the Middle Ages  by  John H. Haaren
Mayors of the Palace  in  The Story of the Middle Ages  by  Samuel B. Harding
Spain Under the Moors  in  Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain  by  Charles F. Horne
Sluggard Kings  in  The Story of France  by  Mary Macgregor
Defeat of the Saracens—Rise of the Carolingians  in  The Story of Europe  by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Charles Martel Repels the Mohammedans at Tours  in  European Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan
Tours  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood


Image Links


Charles Martel at Tours
 in Famous Men of the Middle Ages

Charles Martel defeats the Moors
 in The Story of the Middle Ages

The Merovingian king deposed
 in The Story of the Middle Ages
Charles martel
Charles martel
 in Back Matter
Charles Martel at Tours
Charles Martel at Tours
 in Back Matter

Because of the heavy blows Duke Charles showered upon the saracens he was called Charles the Hammer
 in The Story of France

Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours
 in European Hero Stories


Contemporary
Short Biography
Pepin the Short King of the Franks. Son of Charles Martel. Father of Charlemagne.
Saint Boniface Sent as a Missionary to Frisia to convert Pagans. Cut down Thor's Oak tree. Martyred.