Charles Martel to Charlemagne
At the end of the seventh century, and the beginning of the eighth, Charles Martel was the leading member of one of the most important aristocratic families within the Frankish kingdom. In the Frankish world, the aristocracy had a degree of immunity from royal authority, creating a system where power lay not with the king, but rather with regional aristocratic families led by dukes.
Charles Martel had come into power as a Mayor of the Palace, who acted as an advisor to the king on behalf of the aristocracy. The Carolingian family also formed alliances by arranging matrimonial ties between their sons and the daughters of other powerful aristocratic families. By the eighth century, Martel had amassed such a large support base that he was the recognised acting leader of the Franks (he did not have the title of king, however).
Martel maintained a strong military of heavily armoured cavalrymen through a system of vassalage. A vassalís absolute allegiance to Martel would be reciprocated with an estate and wealth (often taken from subdued rivals or enemies). This relationship of mutual responsibilities between the vassal and lord formed the fabric of social interaction among the higher class of European society in the middle ages.
Martel also supported the spread of the hierarchical, Roman form of Christianity in the Frankish kingdom, which was introduced by the Anglo-Saxon missionaries from England mentioned earlier. The highly centralized nature of the Roman form of Christianity was in Martelís favour, especially as he could extend his ruling influence by designating his supporters as bishops within the Church. In the mid-eighth century, Martel also lent aid to Pope Gregory III in repelling invading Lombards from the Italian lands under the Popeís authority.
Eventually, Martelís son, Pippin III, used this blossoming relationship with the papacy to formally obtain the title of king (in addition to the practical power of king that he inherited from his father) and finally displacing the last of the Merovingian Dynasty in 751 A.D. This seeking of papal approval set a precedent in Europe for the Churchís involvement in the recognition of royal power, which until that time had been a secular mixture of noble birth and military prowess. Charlemagne, the third in the Carolingian line, not only inherited the Frankish kingdom, but also influenced the whole of Europe through his strong (and long) leadership of the Carolingian Empire.