Charles Martel, the first leader of the Carolingian dynasty, initiated the expansion of the Franks’ kingdom and stopped the Muslim advance from Spain in 732. Charlemagne (742-814) continued this expansion and conquered most of Germany and Italy to reunite most of the former Roman Empire. Shortly after his death, however, his kingdom was divided under the pressure of invaders such as the Normans (Vikings) and the Magyars (Hungarians).
Towards the end of the first millenium, France consisted of numerous feudal Lordships. The Carolingian dynasty died out in 987 when Hugues Capet was elected to the throne of France by the Lords, starting the Capetian Dynasty. The early Capetian kings had very limited power over the independent Lords. In 1066, William, Duke of Normandy invaded England while the first Crusades started in 1095.
Despite the mariage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II of England which yielded most of the western part of France to the British Crown, the Capetians continued to centralize the Lordships under their control. Philippe IV (the Fair), even pressured sucessors of Pope Boniface VIII to move the papal court to Avignon in 1309. After the death of the last Capetian king Charles IV, Edward III of England claimed the French Throne and started the Hundred Years War in 1337. Thanks to the courage of a French peasant girl, Joan of Arc, Charles VIII emerged victorious in the war and drove the English back to Calais.