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Facts and Events
Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) was a Frankish statesman and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death.
The illegitimate son of the Frankish statesman Pepin of Heristal and a noblewoman named Alpaida, Martel 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. In foreign wars, Martel subjugated Bavaria, Alemannia, and Frisia, vanquished the pagan Saxons, and halted the Islamic advance into Western Europe at the Battle of Tours.
Martel is considered to be the founding figure of the European Middle Ages. Skilled as an administrator and warrior, he is often credited with a seminal role in the development of feudalism and knighthood. Martel was a great patron of Saint Boniface and made the first attempt at reconciliation between the Papacy and the Franks. The Pope wished him to become the defender of the Holy See and offered him the Roman consulship. Martel refused the offer, but it was a sign of the things to come.
Although Martel never assumed the title of king, he divided Francia, like a king, between his sons Carloman and Pepin. The latter became the first of the Carolingians, the family of Charles Martel, to become king. Martel's grandson, Charlemagne, extended the Frankish realms to include much of the West, and became the first Emperor since the fall of Rome. Therefore, on the basis of his achievements, Martel is seen as laying the groundwork for the Carolingian Empire. In summing up the man, Gibbon has written, Martel was "the hero of the age," whereas Guerard describes him as being the "champion of the Cross against the Crescent."