The Disinherited Knight refuses to raise his visor before he receives his prize. Prince John and his men try to guess who he might be, and Prince John is nervous lest it be King Richard himself. The Knight does not speak as Prince John compliments him on his victory. Then the Knight is informed that he may choose the Queen of Love and of Beauty who is to preside over the next day of the tournament. The Knight chooses Rowena. This disappoints Prince John, who had hinted that the Knight should choose Alicia, daughter of his counselor, Waldemar Fitzurse. But the Prince is gracious and invites Rowena to the banquet that night. Cedric displeases the Prince by saying she will not attend, but will preside over the tournament the following day.
The squires of the defeated knights come to the Disinherited Knight’s pavilion to offer their horses and armor, as the laws of chivalry dictate. The Knight refuses to accept them, but he does accept a ransom of a hundred zecchins. Half of this he keeps for himself; the other half he asks to be distributed amongst the squires, the heralds, and other officials of the tournament. However, he refuses to accept ransom from De Bois-Guilbert, saying that their quarrel is not ended. The Knight then gives his attendant, who is the swine-herd Gurth in disguise, a bag of gold to take to Isaac to repay his debt. Isaac is to take whatever he desires from the bag. Indignant, Gurth says he will give Isaac only half of what he wants.
At the house near Ashby where he and Rebecca are staying, Isaac is grumbling about the money that Prince John forced him to hand over. Rebecca tries to console him. Isaac also does not expect to be repaid by the Disinherited Knight. When Gurth arrives on his mission, Isaac is surprised but joyful. He asks for eighty zecchins. Gurth offers seventy or nothing. Isaac disputes this, and counts out eighty zecchins. He then notices that there is still money in Gurth’s bag, and Gurth says the remainder amounts to as much as Isaac has taken. After Gurth leaves the apartment, Rebecca stops him in the hall and takes him into a side apartment. She gives him a purse containing a hundred zecchins and tells him to return to the Knight what is his due (she and Isaac had assumed Gurth would keep the eighty zecchins in his bag for himself) and keep the remainder for himself.
In a lane just outside Ashby, Gurth is seized by four outlaws who demand his money. His captors drag him into a thicket and then into a clearing. Two more outlaws join them. Gurth says he has thirty zecchins, but the leader of the band knows he has more. Gurth says it belongs to his master. The robbers take all the money Gurth has and interrogate him. He tells the story of the tournament and his mission to Isaac. Although he tells the truth about how he came by the money, they do not believe him. They stop to examine the pouch, during which time Gurth breaks free and strikes the robber captain down with his quarter-staff. The robber gets up and declares that he accepts Gurth’s story as true, and that he will take no money from him since all the knights vanquished by the Disinherited Knight are their enemies. One of the robber band still wants to rob Gurth, however, and the captain allows them to fight with quarter-staves. Gurth is victorious and is allowed to go free, as long as he says nothing about what happened to him that night. Two of the outlaws give him safe escort and Gurth returns to the pavilion of his master.
In the second day of the tournament, all the knights battle at once, rather than in single combat. There are fifty knights on each side. Athelstane has enlisted on the side of the Knight Templar. This is because he considers Rowena to be his future bride, and he wants to punish the Disinherited Knight for having chosen her the previous day. During the ferocious battle, the Disinherited Knight and De Bois-Guilbert continually but unsuccessfully try to seek each other out. Eventually they do close in a one-on-one fight. De Bois-Guilbert is joined by Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane. The Disinherited Knight fights with great skill, but seems certain to be overcome by the superior forces arrayed against him. But then a knight in black armor on a black horse rides forward, soon vanquishes Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane and then retires from the fight. The Disinherited Knight then unseats De Bois-Guilbert, leaps from his own horse and demands that the fallen De Bois-Guilbert yield. But before De Bois-Guilbert can respond, Prince John calls a halt to the proceedings. Thus the day ends. Four knights are dead, over thirty seriously wounded, some of whom never recover or are disabled for life. Prince John awards the honors of the day to the Black Knight, but he cannot be located. So the Prince names the Disinherited Knight instead. When the Knight comes to receive his award from Rowena, his helmet is removed, and he looks pale as death. He collapses at her feet and it is found that he has a wound in his side. Cedric, to his consternation, recognizes the knight as his banished son.
The contest between Ivanhoe and De Bois-Guilbert is only one of the struggles between opposed pairs in the novel. The other major struggle is between Prince John and King Richard. John’s unattractive character has already been suggested in Chapter VII (“extreme haughtiness and indifference to the feelings of others”), and these chapters do nothing to dispel that negative impression. In Chapter IX, for example, Prince John is terrified because he thinks the Disinherited Knight may actually be King Richard in disguise.
The motif of disguise recurs frequently. At the tournament, Richard is disguised as the Black Knight, a disguise that he maintains until the last part of the novel. Ivanhoe has had to disguise himself as well, not only as the Disinherited Knight, but also, earlier in the novel, when he claimed to be a Palmer just back from the Holy Land. And Gurth has disguised himself in order to attend Ivanhoe at the tournament.
Perhaps the message is that in a land where the unjust rule, the good must either disguise themselves or become outlaws, like Robin Hood.
Chapter XII is important for the structure of the novel, which falls into three main parts, each of which comes to a rousing climax with a military spectacle: the tournament at Ashby closes part one; part two culminates with the burning of the castle, and the climax of part three is the duel between Ivanhoe and de Bois-Guilbert at Rebecca’s trial.
What is notable about the conclusion of the first part, at the end of Chapter XII, is how violent and dangerous the tournament is, as the long list of casualties confirms. If such tournaments were to medieval society what our sporting contests are to us today, people in those days certainly permitted a level of danger that would be considered unacceptable today. And the fact that Scott dwells on the details of the dead and wounded suggests that he is less than enthusiastic about the code of chivalry he describes—an impression that other parts of the novel confirm.