Charles Martel (circa 688 –741)
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© RMN-Grand Palais (Château de Versailles) / Gérard Blot
Combat of Charles Martel and Abderrahman, king of the Saracens
Charles Martel and Abderrahman, king of the Saracens (c. 688-741). © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / R-G Ojéda
The founder of the Carolingian dynasty Charles Martel was the son of Pepin of Heristal, Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, who had defeated the Neustrians in Tetry (687) and been recognised as Mayor of the Palace of the Kingdom by the Merovingian king Theuderic III. In 714, on the death of Charles Martel's father, the Neustrians and the Aquitanians, allied with the Frisians and the Saxons, attempted to overcome the power of the Austrasians.
It took Charles Martel seven years to defeat his adversaries and took his place at the side of Theuderic IV. Charles Martel's actions then continued as he won back the kingdom, paying his army with Church lands. This unprecedented secularisation, which turned the Church structures upside down and allowed the kingdom to be transformed into a warrior State, went hand in hand with support for the Pope in his evangelisation policy. Charles Martel thus regained possession of Thuringia and Alemania in Germania, reconquered Frisia and subjugated Bavaria, whilst supporting the missionaries and Pope Boniface.
Charles Martel victory at Poitiers over the Arabs who had invaded Aquitaine (732) was part of this campaign. After reconquering Burgundy and Provence, his power was such that, without deposing the Merovingian king Theuderic IV, who died in 737, he was in charge of the kingdom, which he divided between his two sons Carloman and Pepin the Short.