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- See also: Charles Martel d'Anjou (1271-1295).
Charles Martel (Charles "the Hammer", German: Karl Martell) (August 23, 686 – October 22 741) was born in Herstal, in what is now Wallonia, Belgium, the illegitimate son of Pepin II (635 or 640 - December 16 714) and his concubine Alpaida or Chalpaida.
Although he was Mayor of the Palace of the kingdom of the Franks, Martel (Martel means "the Hammer") is best remembered for winning the Battle of Tours (more correctly the Battle of Poitiers) in 732, which has been characterized as the salvation of Europe from the Arabs spreading their empire further than the Iberian Peninsula. Martel's Frankish army defeated an Arab army, which had swept through southern Asia and north Africa, before conquering most of the Iberian peninsula and much of southern France. Only once in history did infantry without bows and arrows or firearms withstand mounted and armoured cavalry. Martel achieved lasting greatness by inspiring his Franks to do what was thought to be impossible.
It was this battle that earned Charles the surname "Martel," for the merciless way he smote his enemies. Most historians believe that had he failed at Tours, Islam would probably have overun Europe.
Although it took another two generations for the Franks to drive all the Arab garrisons out of what is now France and across the Pyrenees, Charles Martel's halt of the invasion of French soil turned the tide of Islamic advance, and the unification of the Frankish kingdom under Charles Martel, his son Pepin the Short, and his grandson Charlemagne prevented the Umayyad kingdom from expanding over the Pyrenees.
On Pepin II's death in 714, the succession passed to an infant grandson, Theodoald . The faction of Austrasian nobles who supported Theodoald was led by his stepmother, Pepin's widow, Plectrude . Charles, who was already an adult, led a rival faction and prevailed in a series of battles against both invading Neustrian Franks and the forces of Plectrude. Between 718 and 723, Charles secured his power through a series of victories and by winning the loyalty of several important clerics. This he accomplished in part by donating lands and money for the foundations of abbeys such as Echternach.
In the subsequent decade, Charles led the Frankish army against the eastern duchies, Bavaria and Alemannia, and the southern duchies, Aquitaine and Provence (in Avignon, Nîmes, Montfrin (736), ...). He dealt with the ongoing conflict with the Saxons to his northeast with some success, but full conquest of the Saxons and their incorporation into the Frankish empire would wait for his grandson Charlemagne.
Charles Martel married:
Charles Martel died on October 22 741 at Quierzy in what is today the Aisne département in the Picardy region of France. He was buried at Saint Denis Basilica in Paris. He was succeeded by his sons, Carloman, Pepin the Short, and Grifo.
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