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Sunday, March 29, 2015

52 Ancestors Year 2 #14: Sancha de Ayala, Spanish Noblewoman

     Sancha de Ayala brought the only non-Caucasian blood into the family tree that I have found! Some twenty-one generations before her a Spanish ancestress married one of the Caliphs of Cordoba, an Arab of the Umayyad Dynasty. An account of her and her family tree on Rootsweb said that this made her a descendant of Mohammad.  However, I studied this out and the Umayyads were not descended from him. They were cousins. But she is interesting for much more than this!

     Sancha was born in 1360 in Toledo, Castille, Spain.  Her father, Diego Gomez de Toledo, was a nobleman who lived in a palace.  His grandfather was the Grand Chamberlain of King Fernando IV. Her mother, Inez Alfonsa DeAyala, was of an old noble line which included many kings, and went back to the house of Lara from which all the Kings of Spain come.  So she and all her siblings took her mother's name.  Perhaps of most interest to us is the fact that her 12 times great grandfather on her mother's side is Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar or El Cid, the great Spanish Conqueror and hero. He is my twenty-ninth great grandfather. Sancha's brother, Pedro Suarez DeAyala, became the great grandfather of Ferdinand I of Ferdinand and Isabella fame and is the ancestor of almost of the kings and queens of Europe including Queen Elizabeth II of England. So she is well connected!

     In 1371, Constanza, daughter of the deposed king of Castille, Don Pedro(the Cruel) I, came to England and married John of Gaunt, son of Edward III.  She brought several young Spanish noble ladies with her, including Sancha.  In 1373, Sancha married a Knight in the employ of John of Gaunt, Walter Blount. She was friends with Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales,  and his wife, Philippa. There are various references to the Blounts in the contemporary records.  Sancha and Walter had two children, Thomas and Constance.  Walter was killed in the battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403.  He is mentioned in Shakespeare's Henry IV. Sancha founded a chantry in the Hospital of St. Leonard in Derbyshire after her husband died and helped her daughter raise her children after her husband died. Sancha made her will in 1415 (it still exists!) and died in 1418.  She was buried beside her husband in the Collegiate Church of St. Mary in Newark, Leicestershire. She seems like a model noblewoman of the period.

     Both her son, Thomas and her daughter, Constance, had children some of whose descendants came to America.  Presidents Benjamin Harrison and William Henry Harrison, and the two Bushes are among them. I think it is fascinating how one woman doing such a simple natural thing as marrying and having children can have such influence!



  1. Walter Blount and Sancha de Ayala are my 18th great grandparents

  2. Wow they are mine too, I'm all Caucasian from there

  3. What about Jose Antonio Malik Ayala... The true king of Spain?

  4. What about Jose Antonio Malik Ayala... The true king of Spain?

  5. Thank you for all the great information. When my DNA test said I was 1% Iberian Peninsula, I had to scratch my head. But when Sancha de Ayala showed up in the tree as my 16th great-grandmother, I was delighted.