Charles Martel

Pepin or Pepin of Herstal was a Frankish statesman who ruled Kingdom of the Franks or Francia as the Duke. His reign lasted from 680 till his death in 714 AD. Pepin was the son of a notable Frankish politician, Ansegisel. He worked tirelessly to lift his family to pinnacle of power.

He became Mayor of Palace of Austrasia in 680 AD and then went on to unite with force and statesmanship, the other Frankish dominions like Neustria and Burgundy. Pepin continued to expand his sphere of influence in the neighboring regions. He was succeeded by his able and astute son Charles Martel as the ruler of Francia.

Charles was a very sharp and intelligent military commander. He is known for re-uniting the Frankish realms that had gone their own way after the death of his father. Chalres seized power for himself after a tumultuous struggle. His biggest achievement was perhaps stalling the Islamic invasion of France.

Charles Martel

Early Life: Pepin was born in 635 AD. His maternal grandfather was Pepin the Elder who was also the Mayor of Palace of Austrasia. He was an ambitious young man who wanted to make his family the most powerful in Francia. He assumed the mantle of Mayor of Palace of Austrasia after the death of Dagobert II in 679. Pepin halted the attempts by Theuderic III, ruler of Neustria to wrest control of Austrasia. He married twice.

His first wife was named Pletrude and second was Alpaida. Charles Martel was Pepin’s son from the second wife, Alpaida. Before his death, Pepin appointed his grandson, Theudoald as heir to his throne. This he did on the urging of his wife Plectrude, as Theudoald was son of Grimoald, son of Pepin and Plectrude. However, Theudoald was only eight years old and his nomination did not go well with other realms of Kingdom of Franks.

Plectrude imprisoned Charles to quell his rebellion but Charles escaped to start a bitter struggle for the throne. He succeeded finally in 718 after a series of battles against multitude of opponents.

Pepin’s Reign: Pepin ruled for thirty four years. His immediate aim after becoming Mayor of Palace of Austrasia was to consolidate his power and include other dominions of Francia under one single rule. He fought several battles with Neustria and Burgundy and by 687 AD; he had become the sole ruler of Kingdom of Franks.

He furthered his sphere of influence by subduing Germanic tribes and ethnic groups like Frisians and Alemanni. He died in 714 AD of old age. Before his death, Pepin appointed his eight years old grandson Theudoald as his heir.

Charles Martle’s Reign: After Pepin’s death, a fierce contest for power started. Charles had to fight off several battles against other realms of Francia and his step mother Plectrude to finally restore the Kingdom to its former geographical shape in 718 AD. After putting his own house in order, Charles Martel started a series of foreign expeditions. This phase of his reign lasted from 718 to 732. During this period he fought and won many battles against Saxons, Alemanni and Bavaria.

By the time Charles finished with his western expeditions, he was faced with an Islamic invasion of Western Europe. In 732 AD he fought the most important battle of his life. An Islamic army of Ummayad Caliphate led by the governor of Al-Andalus, Al Ghafiqi faced Charles army at a place between French cities of Tours and Poitiers. Charles managed to win this crucial battle known in history as Battle of Tours.

This Frankish victory spelled end of Muslim invasion of France. He continued to strengthen his rule and increased his influence in the region. His grandson, Charlemagne became an emperor himself and included much of the west in his empire, thus becoming the first emperor in west post collapse of Roman Empire. Charles Martel died in 741 AD after having divided his empire among his sons.