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The Ayalas

Mariano Ospina Peña

The Ayala family is probably the most prestigious of the medieval Spanish lineages. Although it was initiated by Don Vela de Ayala around 1080, a knight belonging to King Alfonso's VI court, it's history can be traced to the eighth century and it's ancestors are among the first kings of Navarra and Aragon, some 10 or eleven generations before him.

This period is also the beginning of the different Spanish kingdoms that are part of today's Kingdom of Spain. Since the eighth century, Muslims or Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula and would prevail until the fall of Granada in 1492. It was a more than 700 years of war between navarros, castellanos, aragoneses, catalanes, leoneses, cordobeses etc (all Spanish kingdoms) against the Moors. It is also important to remember that Spain was not one kingdom but many, and the unification wasn't possible until Queen Elizabeth of Castilla (the one that financed Columbus in 1492) and her husband King Fernando of Aragon. As you will see this part of the Spanish history is a struggle for territorial power and wealth.

It is in this context (the war against the Moors) that Don Vela surged as a great warrior, first a soldier in the Biscayan army and then as a soldier in King Alfonso's VI troops. He was granted the lands of Ayala in Basque Country. He and his son Vela Velasquez were also conquerors of Jerusalem during the I Crusade. His descendants are the founders of more than 40 surnames. Queen Isabella of Castile in c.a. 1495 affirmed "He, who is not Ayala, is nothing". All major Spanish lineages married to or within the Ayala family.

Sancha is the 23nd generation from Ximeno and 11th of the Ayalas, granddaughter to Fernán Pérez de Ayala.

Each name on the following list descends from the previous as legitimate or illegitimate offspring. Special care should be taken with the similar names as the some keep appearing generation after generation and the early medieval names do not include surnames as these are just beginning to be used. Usually the surname would be the fathers name followed by ez, so this way the son of Rodrigo would bear the surname Rodriguez, the son of Sancho, Sanchez, the son of Vela, Velez, the son of Velasco, Velasquez etc. Brothers of the same mother and father could bear different surnames as they are allowed to choose from their maternal or paternal families for several generations.

The use of Don for males and Doña for females during the medieval period is of certain significance in enhancing the bearer's importance. It is not a name or nobility title. It may still have some significance in Spain (example Doña Letizia, wife of the Prince of Asturias and future Queen of Spain) but not in Latin America as most men and women receive this denomination.

 Sancha de Ayala's Lineage

1. Ximeno, "El Fuerte" (The Strong) Duke of Bascony. He was son of Adabrico, third in the duchesse. Born ca. 745 in Pamplona, land of Navarra, Ximeno's family was originally from the Valley of Roncal and had managed to extend their influence in almost all of Navarra. He is first mentioned in a document of 778.

He was also known as Jimino or Scemeno. A member of the Jimenos, Ximeno is taken as king by some, the truth is he was a very powerful basque tycoon with great influence and power.

It is said he possessed a tremendous strength, reason for being called "El Fuerte". He became very famous because of his defense of the territory against moor incursions. It is very probable he participated in the memorable and victorious battle of Roncesvalles, headed by his grandfather Luppo II, against Charlemagne's troops in 778.

2. Iñigo Jiménez was son of Ximeno and Faquilene, born ca. 765. There is little information on him and it is believed he ruled, but where is unknown. He is father to Iñigo Iñiguez Arista, with Oneca.

3. Iñigo Iñiguez Arista, born ca. 790. He is also known as Eneko Aritza. Grandson to the King of Scotland, Iñigo was the first King of Navarra then known as Pamplona. He reigned from 842 to 851. Iñigo died the 8th of august 857. He married Onneca Velásquez, daughter of Velasco, Lord of Pamplona.

After his father's death, his mother married Banu Qasi Musá ibn Fortún of Tudela, one of the powerful Muslim lords of the Ebro Valley, who backed him to obtain the crown. This marriage allowed Iñigo great influence from Pamplona to the high Pyrenee valleys of Irati in Navarra and the Hecho Valley in Aragon.

The Banu Qasi controled the fertile banks of the Ebro River from Tafalla almost to Zaragoza.  

The Kingdom of Pamplona, later known as the Kingdom of Navarra, originated in the firm alliance between Muslims and Christians.

4. García Iñiguez King of Pamplona

5. Sancho I Garcés was born in Navarra ca. 865 and died in December 925. He was King of Pamplona from 905 to 925. Sancho will be backed by Alfonso III, King of León and Ramón I, Count of Pallars and against him will be the Arista and the Banu Qasi, powerful Muslim Lords of Aragón, enemies of Sancho's allies.

When his father García I Iñiguez dies, Sancho is governing Valdonsella and intervenes in all neighboring states. But the good relations with the Banu Qasi allow him to occupy the throne of Pamplona.

In 922 Galindo Aznárez II, Count of Aragón dies, so Sancho invades and overtakes Aragón. In war against the Moors, the Valleys of Najerilla and Iregua fall under Sancho's dominium as he conquers Calahorra, Nájera and Viguera.

6. García Sánchez I King of Pamplona and Count of Aragón. (Navarra 919—feb 22, 970) Garcia was son of Sancho I Garcés, King of Pamplona y Toda (or Urraca) Aznárez of Aragón. He reigned since the death of his father in 925 to 970. When García Sánchez I is crowned, he is but a six year old child and his uncle Ximeno will be regent succeeded by Garcia's mother, Queen Mother Toda, relative to the Caliph of Córdoba, Abd al-Rahman III.

Queen Toda as regent manages a plan to enforce the Kingdom's external position by calculated marriages among the nobles. García is married to Andregoto Galíndez, Queen of Pamplona and Countess of Aragón, she was daughter of the Count of Aragon, Galindo Aznar II and Sancha, and contributed to the Kingdom by the marriage to Garcia, the county of Aragón.

7. Sancho Garcés II "Abarca" (a special sort of peasant footware) King of Pamplona and Count of Aragón. Crowned in 970, Sancho had married in 962 with Urraca Fernández de Castilla (—1007), daughter of Fernán González de Lara and Sancha of Pamplona. Urraca had been married in 941 to Odoño III of León and in 956 to the future Ordoño IV "El Malo", of whom she separated.

8. García II Sánchez "el Trémulo" King of Pamplona and Count of Aragón, Garcia was crowned late in his life. He married Jimena Fernández, daughter of the tycoon of León, Fernando Bermúdez and his wife Elvira.

García Sánchez was nicknamed "El Trémulo" (the tremulous) because of a strong nervous tremble which invaded him before entering battle, despite his braveness.  

His reign is characterized by the continuous war with Almanzor (Al-Mansur Ibn Abi Aamir) the Muslim ruler of Al Anda-lus (today known as Andalucía). It is believed he died ca. 999 after a short reign.  

9. Sancho III "El Mayor" (the biggest, greatest) (991—1035) King of Pamplona and Count of Aragón. Was crowned between 1000 and 1004 and reigned until his death in 1035. His scarce age as crowned King permitted his mother and grandmother to serve as counselors with the bishops of the period.

Sancho received in 1018 the title of Count of Sobrarbe-Ribagorza and in 1029 that of Castilla (1029—1035).

When Sancho turns 20 in 1011, he marries Munia, daughter of Sancho I Garcia, Count of Castilla but he had already taken as mistress Sancha de Aybar with whom in 1007, has an ilegitimate son named Ramiro (see Ramiro I of Aragon).

His marriage to Munia settles relations with Castilla and the Treaty signed in 1016 settles boundary disputes and strengthens his position in the traditional confrontation between Castilla and Navarra with León.

Toward the west in the Ribagorza-Sobrabe region is chaos by Christians fighting among themselves but governed by Moors. In 1017 Sancho battles the region and wins Ribagorza from Moorish domain, permits his relative, the Countess Toda to govern.

That same year his father in law, the Count of Castilla dies and the successor is García, his seven year old brother in law. This way Sancho becomes García's protector against the hostile nobility of Castilla and the King of León who is served by the Counts of Castilla.  The solution to such problems was solved by arranging the young Prince's marriage to the daughter of the King of León, once they became of age.

In 1025 Sancho's relative, the Countess Toda of Ribagorza retires to a monastery and Sancho assumes the rule of the County.

His young brother in law's marriage is confirmed for 1029 so Count García II Sánchez decides to travel to León and meet his future bride, Princess Sancha of León.

According to Esteban de Garibay (a sixteen century historian), García's father, García I had banned from Castilla Don Vela de Guevara, Lord of Nájera (see María Sanz de Salcedo), which obliged him to move into Moor country. Not able to live among the Muslims, he went to León where he was welcomed by King Alfonso V and granted lands.

The sons of Vela were Iñigo, Rodrigo y Diego Vela de Guevara, when they knew of the visit to León by the new Count of Castilla, they still felt resentful for the treatment their father had received from the Count's father, they decided to murder him.

The young Count asked his protector and brother in law, Sancho, to escort him to León. Sancho accepted and went with his two sons the princes García y Fernando. With the Count they traveled to León, when they arrived at Sahagún, the Count left his escorts and advanced toward the city. On the way he was met by the Vela de Guevaras which begged him forgiveness and pardon to return to their lands in Castilla. History says their requests were accepted by the young García II and the Guevaras were pardoned. Yet despite the royal pardon, Tuesday the 13th of May, as the Count's retinue left the Palace at León, he was attacked by the Vela de Guevaras and murdered.

Sancho immediately claimed Castilla in his wife's name and overtook it. Sancho's possible participation in Count García's murder has always been considered.

He had converted the Kingdom of Pamplona to that of Navarra and annexed Sobrarbe, Ribagorza, Castilla y Aragón, naming himself the first King of the Spains.

Once his kingdom was assured, in 1033 he turned against the Moors in a war that would be known as the "reconquist" which would last several centuries until 1492.

10. Ramiro I Sánchez, King of Aragón. Ramiro is Sancho's first born, though illegitimate.

He inherited from his father the Aragón region which he turns into a kingdom that includes the mountainous zones of  Aragón and the Gállego, plus the towns of Aibar and Gallipienzo, Ligiaxi and Zabalza, Eslaba, Alloz con Astobiza, Arboniés y Burutania; Arazuri, Sarriguren and Abero; Tabar, Olaz and Echarri; Amillano and Arbeiza.

Since the death of Ramiro's half brother Gonzalo in 1037, he had annexed the states of Sobrarbe and Ribagorza. He tried to take Graus in 1063 but died in the intent. This battle seems to have been the first military action of the most famous of Spanish knights and heroes, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar "el Cid".

Ramiro had married on August 22, 1036, in Jaca, with Gilberga (Ermesinda) Roger de Bigorra.

11. Sancho Ramírez V of Navarra and I of Aragón (reigned 1063—1094) Married with Isabel de Urgel (—1071). He succeeded Ramiro I at 18 and took part in the war of the three Sanchos, defending his cousin Sancho Garcés IV, from the aggressor Sancho II of Castilla. There he will encounter Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar serving under Sancho of Castilla.

He received Navarra at the death of Sancho Garcés, murdered by his own brother Ramón, who in a hunting trip in Peñalen threw him of a hill. Sancho was proclaimed successor by the Navarrians. After 1068 he married Plasencia.

11. Vela ó Velasco Sánchez de Aiala. Most sources say he is the bastard son of Ramiro I but some sustain that he is son of Sancho Ramírez V. We will consider him son of Ramiro I of Aragón and half brother to Sancho Ramírez V of Navarra. Some have considered him a legendary figure, but his appearance in different historical events has made scholars reconsider. His story goes as follows:

His condition as illegitimate child brought forth disputes with his half brothers, sons of Ramiro I of Aragón. His refusal to marry a princess chosen for him, led him to leave home and serve under the Lords of Biscay, Don Iñigo López Esguerra or his son Don Lope Díaz "el Rubio" (the Blond) and as he makes a name for himself he is called to join his uncles forces, King Alfonso of León (later Alfonso VI of León and Castilla), his mother's brother. At Alfonso's side he battled the Moorish armies.

It is considered that he received from King Alfonso the Ayala territories between 1070 and 1080.

As it seems his true name was Velasco because his children used the Velasquez surname.

One day as Alfonso and his troops arrived on the borders of Vasconia and being the King and his retinue on the top of the Sierra Salvada admiring the beautiful view, one of the courtesans asked the King whose was the land before them. The King answered "The Biscayans consider it theirs, I consider it mine, and in order to avoid bloodshed we have prevented settling it".

Then Don Vela exclaimed: "My Lord you have promised to give me lands to settle, now is a good time to keep your promise with this deserted land we see in front of us. The Biscayan are my friends because before serving you, I served them and they will not see it unfit for me to settle these lands."

After which the courtesans, which loved him dearly begged the King: "Let it be so Lord, let it be so."

The King answered, "Then let it be, and be it the name of this land in remembrance of this day".

The words used in old Spanish "Háyala Señor, háyala", and the King's response, "pues hayála y tal nombre lleve esa tierra, en memoria de esta porfía," was the form in which the name Ayala was born.

After a hard campaign the 15th of July, 1.099 Don Vela entered triumphantly with his eldest son Vela Velásquez the conquered Jerusalem ending the first crusade. In accordance to Argote de Molina in the 100th chapter of the first book, Salazar de Mendoza in the second book, chapter two and Vicencio Blasco de Lanuza in the fourth book chapter twenty three (all medieval historians), "because of the campaign in Holy Land he was allowed to use on his shield of 5 red bars, inherited from his mother (the bars of the Counts of Barcelona) on a golden field, 5 crosses of Jerusalem on blue". (See Vela de Ayala's shield in web page

Ayala is the first of the 5 lineages which complete the "Elder Relatives" (Parientes Mayores), the most important families of Basque Country.

On his return from Holy Land, Vela helped resettle the city of Salamanca devasted by the Moors. It is believed he died in 1124.

12. Vela Velásquez de Ayala, Lord of Ayala. (c.a 1050 and 1070-). Vela is one of the conquerors of Jerusalem during the first crusade. It is said he married Doña Juliana Galíndez, daughter of the Lord of the Valley of Mena.

13. Sancho de Ayala, Lord of Ayala

14. Lope Sánchez de Ayala, Lord of Ayala(Ayala c.a.1100—). In 1063 married in Ayala. His wife's name is unknown.

15. Sancho Díaz de Ayala, Lord of Ayala and also known as García Galíndez I, and as Galindo Velásquez. He married the only daughter of Count Don Flavio Rubio Díaz de Aranguti, Lord of Salcedo. This marrage united the lands of Ayala and Salcedo and is the reason why after Sancho many Lords of Ayala took the name Salcedo, as it was a mandatory condition to inherit the huge Salcedo Estate

16. Sancho García de Salcedo(Ayala 1128—Alarcos 1195) "El Cabezudo" (big head). V Count of Ayala, IV of Salcedo. Married in 1153 with the widow of his brother in law Lope de Mendoza, Maria Iñiguez de Piedrola (1130—) daughter of Count Nuño de Mendoza (1104—) "cuatro manos" (four hands), and granddaughter of Don Iñigo de Mendoza whom died in the battle of Axxisto, who was grandson to Don López González de Mendoza whom died in Forca de Badaya and was son of the Count of Vizcaya, owner of the lands of Urkabuztáiz and the villages of the Valley of Ardusia and Ganoles. Sancho died at the battle of Alarcos in 1195.

17. María Sanz de Salcedo (1158—) married in 1189 to the powerful widower, Don Pedro Vélez de Guevara (Castilla +/-1136 —) sometimes confused with his brother.  Son of Count Don Vela Ladrón de Guevara, Lord of Oñate, rico-hombre (richman, a title of nobility) according to royal privileges (written royal grants) and was governing at the time, Álava (one of the three territorial divisions of Basque Country). Pedro had a son from a previous marriage to María Álvarez, called Ladrón de Guevara, which inherited the Lordship of Guevara and Oñate.

These Guevaras, would descend from Sancho William of the Royal house of Brittany and who ca. 718 arrived in Spain to fight the moors. Being very successful made fortune and fame and married the daughter of GarciXimenez, Lord of Amescua y Abárzuza. He established on the banks of the Gueba River (today Zadorra) where the village of Guevara is located giving birth to the surname.

According to legend, he is direct descendent of Ladrón de Guevara which saved and brought up King Sancho "Abarca" and of the brothers, sons of Don Vela Guevara, which murdered count García II Sánchez.

His lineage would descend of a third brother, Don Iñigo, father of Vela Iñiguez, father to Don Iñigo Vélez which died in 1131 serving King Alfonso "el Batallador" (the battler) in the siege of Bayona, being his death felt deeply in all of the kingdom. His sons were Ladrón who governed in  Aibar, Lope in Tafalla and Fortuno in Marcilla.

18. Sancho Vélez de Guevara (Guipúzcoa 1186—). Sancho served King Alfonso X. Constructed the Torremayor fort. Sancho was the first to take the surname Gamboa (and is founder of the lineage) because he placed settlers in Ubivarri Gamboa ((in basque, New Villa of Gamboa), and this is why he is known as Sancho Vélez of Gamboa (even though with his brother Ladrón, were the first to use the surname Guevara).

This was an inheritance received from his father who had given it to his wife, María Sanz de Salcedo as a matrimonial compromise. Married in 1217 with Andrequina Díaz de la Mena (1190—) daughter of Diego Sanz de Mena and ¿granddaughter? of Sancho Velásquez de Ayala his sixth  grandfather.

19. Sancho Pérez de Gamboa "Motila" (1246—) Was called Motila because as a child he was raised by King Alfonso whom lifted him and asked him his name. The child responded "Motila", which in basque means "young boy". Sancho Pérez constructed the Tower Mayor of Morrillas. He married Aldonza Sánchez, daughter of Diego Sanz de Velasco.

20. Pedro López de Ayala (1278—Murcia 1331) Married in Toledo with Sancha Fernández Barroso (+/-1282—), daughter of Fernán Pérez de Barroso y Mençía de Sotomayor. He was Adelantado Mayor of Murcia, as second to Don Juan Manuel or in the King's name until 1331 when he died in the arab frontier obtaining for himself and family, grants from the King.  His wife was from Toledo and of a rich Portuguese family and was sister to Cardinal Pero (Pedro) Gómez Barroso, Archbishop of Sevilla, politician and writer. This union initiates the powerful Ayalas of Toledo.

21. Sancho Pérez de Ayala(Toledo 1304—1328) Lord of Ayala. In 1328 was notified by the Lords of  Ibargüen and Perea to present himself immediately in Ayala because of the death of his relative, Don Juan Sánchez de Salcedo, Lord of Ayala without successor and the Lordship would be taken by Sancho García, Lord of Murga, nephew to Don Juan, with the protection of Beltrán Yáñez de Guevara and García de Avendaño.

The Pérez de Ayala had rights and titles on the Lordship of Ayala because of their fourth grandmother María Sanz de Salcedo (see above), besides belonging to the legitimate line of the family. Sancho García was a nephew to Don Juan but his father was the illegitimate half brother.

Sancho was murdered in an ambush by Salcedos, (which favored Sancho García) shortly after assuming the Estate

21. Fernán Pérez de Ayala, Lord of Ayala "El Viejo". (Toledo 1305—Vitoria 1385) married to Elvira Álvarez Ceballos, brother to Sancho Perez de Ayala inherited his Estate at his death.

22. Inés Alfonsa de Ayala (Toledo 1337—) Married to Diego Gómez de Toledo (Toledo+/-1334—) Lord of Casarubios, son of Gómez Pérez de Toledo and Teresa García. Diego was High Notary and High Mayor of Toledo.

23. Sancha de Ayala (Toledo 1356—Newark, England 1418) was lady to Princess Doña Constanza de Castilla, daughter of King Pedro "el Cruel" (the cruel), which was married to the Duque of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, arriving at England in 1371.

Sancha married towards 1373 with the English knight Sir Walter Le Blount Beachamp (Elwaston England 1350—Shrewsbury England 1403) son of John Le Blount (1298—1358) and Eleanor Beauchamp (1332—1391).

Since he was 13 in 1369, Sir Walter served the then Duque Henry and later King Henry.

In 1371 he had already been knighted. In 1372 Henry named him Constable of the Tutbury Castle for life. It seems that that same year Henry took up his services definitely for life, be it war or peace. Between 1378 and 79, in France, he spoke with the King of Castilla and León who refers to him as "notre très cher y très âme chivaler monsire Wauter Blount."

Walter died during the battle of Shrewsbury in England, held between loyal troops of King Henry IV of Lancaster y rebels belonging to the Percy family. This battle is remembered in William Shakespeare's, Henry IV, First part.

24. Sir Thomas Blount de Ayala (Rock 1390—Elvaston 1456) Knight of The Most Noble Order of the Garter since 1417, Order created by King Edward III in 1348. In it were the King and only 25 knights who were replaced only by death or falling from grace of the King. Every year they met at Windsor Castle.

Thomas married Margaret Gresley (Rock 1393—) daughter of Sir Thomas Greeley (1332—).

Thomas died during the siege of Rouen by Henry V of England, in the 100 Years War.

25. Sir Thomas Blount (England 1414—1468)

24. Sir James Blount de Ayala (Knight)

Descending directly from these English Blount,was William Blount(1749-1800) US politician who was among those signing the Constitution in 1776. Later he was senator for the State of Tennessee. This William Blount is grandson to Thomas Blount, first of this surname to settle in the English colonies and who arrived to America during the colonial period.

More on Sancha de Ayala in Spanish:


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