Charles Martel (in Latin, Carolus Martellus; in German, Karl Martell) was the illegitimate son of Pippin II of Herstal and, after an intense power struggle, succeeded him as the "mayor of the palace" of Austrasia, the eastern part of Frankish territory. By this time the Merovingians were rulers in name only and the mayors of the palace ruled both Austrasia and Neustria.
Martel (the name means "hammer") succeeded in reuniting the Frankish realm, eventually acquiring Aquitaine and Burgundy. He supported the missionary efforts of Saint Boniface and others like him in the hopes of consolidating his military victories. In 732 he achieved one of the most significant victories in early Europe at the Battle of Tours, which stemmed the tide of Muslim advancement from Spain into Frankish territory.
Although Martel was in practice king of the Franks, he never took the title, always maintaining the fiction that the Merovingians still ruled. When he died, he divided his lands between his two legitimate sons, Pippin III (father of Charlemagne) and Carloman.
Early Carolingian Rulers
Use this quick-reference table to see the progression of Mayors of the Palace, Kings, and Emperors who ruled Carolingian territory.
On the Web
Catholic Encyclopedia: Charles Martel
Substantial biography by Godefroid Kurth.
Well-hyperlinked bio at Wikipedia.
The Battle of Tours
Concise overview at Northpark University.
Pope Gregory II - Appeal to Charles Martel, 739
A letter from 739, online at Paul Halsall's Medieval Sourcebook.
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by Jean Deviosse
The Age of Charles Martel
by Paul Fouracre
The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe
by Pierre Riché; translated by Michael Idomir Allen
The Carolingian Empire
An index of sites concerning the successors of Charles Martel and the empire they built.
Directory of sites that offer useful resources for the study of Europe in Late Antiquty, or shortly after the fall of Rome.
More at the Medieval History Site