Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Charles Martel

For works with similar titles, see Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Charles.

CHARLES MARTEL (about 689-741), was an illegitimate son of Pepin d'Heristal, duke of Austrasia and mayor of the palace of the Merovingian kings of France. The wildness of Charles s youth, and most of all the suspicion that he was concerned in the murder of his brother, totally estranged the affection of his father, who left the mayoralty to one of his grandsons, and the regency to his wife. The Austrasians, however, unwilling to be ruled by an infant and a woman, made Charles their duke. His life was from that time one continual battle, of which the result was to lay the foundation of the modern. French kingdom. He subdued the Neustrians, and made himself mayor of the palace ; he forced the duke of Aquitaine to do homage to the French crown; he drove back the Saxons, Bavarians, and other German tribes, who ravaged the frontier; and he compelled the Frisians to embrace Christianity. But by far his most important achievement was the victory which he won between Tours and Poitiers in 732, when he finally stayed the northward advance of the Saracens, and thus materially affected the subsequent course of European history. It is a commonly accepted tradition that it was his valour in this battle which gained him the title of Martel, or “the Hammer.” In 737, on the death of Thierry IV., Charles did not go through the form of appointing another nominal king, though he never altered his own title. He divided his territory between his two sons, Pepin and Carloman, the former receiving Neustria, the latter Austrasia; and on the death of Carloman, Pepin gained possession of the whole kingdom, and assumed the title of king. Of the favour of the church Charles Martel was careless; he seized her lands to reward his warriors; and though he more than once defended the Pope, his name was execrated by the clergy, who were fond of painting him amid the torments of hell.