ir Walter Scott's historical novel Ivanhoe (1819) is the first of his tales in which Scott used an exclusively English scene and subject. It is a chivalric tale set in the late twelfth century, against the historical backdop of the Crusades and the adventures of England's King Richard the Lion-Hearted. One of the last of the Anglo-Saxon nobility, Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, son of Cedric the Saxon, is in love Rowena, another Saxon scion of the aristocracy and ward of Wilfred's father, who hopes to reinforce the blood of the Saxon royal line by marrying her to Athelstane of Coningsburgh. Banished by his father because of his love for Rowena, Ivanhoe has gone off to serve the crusading King Richard in the Holyland, where by his prowess in battle he has won the English monarch's favour. Consequently, his loyalties are divided between his father's dream of a Saxon revival and his own loyalty to a monarch who combines the best of Saxon and Norman and promises closure to a century of racial enmity.
King Richard's brother John, in his brother's absence (caused not merely by the Crusade, but by Richard's being imprisoned in a remote Austrian castle on his homeward journey), tries to usurp the throne with the help of some greedy and dissolute Norman barons. At the tournament at Ashby de la Zouch, Richard miraculously reappears to help Ivanhoe to defeat John's knights, whose chief are the brutal Templar, Sir Brian Bois-Guilbert and the bullying Sir Reginald Front-de-Boeuf. At the great tournament Sir Brian falls in love with Rebecca, a beautiful Jewess. She is taken captive with her father Isaac, Rowena, the wounded Ivanhoe, and Cedric by the Norman barons and imprisoned in Front-de-Boeuf's Castle of Torquilstone. The King, assisted by Robin of Locksley's (a.k.a.Robin Hood) band of outlaws, storms the castle and rescues the prisoners. However, Rebecca the Jewesss is carried off by Bois-Guilbert to the Preceptory of Teplestowe, where the Grand Master of the Templars charges her with witchcraft. Ivanhoe appears as her champion, opposing Bois-Guilbert, who dies in the lists untouched by his adversary's lance, apparently the victim of his own contending passions. Rebecca, recognizing Ivanhoe's love for Rowena, leaves England with her father. Interesting supporting comic characters in the story are Wamba the Fool; Gurth, the swineherd; and Friar Tuck.
Last modified 30 December 2001