Four generations and approximately one hundred years had passed since the decisive Battle of Hastings in 1066. Richard the Lion-Hearted (1157-1199), now King of England, on returning from the Crusades, was made prisoner of the Duke of Austria, abetted by the machinations of Richard's brother, Prince John. Prince John hoped, by the help of his Norman confederates, to seize the throne.
Wilfred of Ivanhoe, son of Cedric, had been disinherited by his father for two reasons: because of his allegiance to Richard, the exiled King of England, and because of his romantic interest in Rowena, ward of Cedric, whom Cedric intended as bride to Athelstane, a descendant of Saxon royalty.
In the guise of the Disinherited Knight, Ivanhoe wins the tournament at Ashby-de-la-Zouche with the aid of the Black Knight and crowns Rowena his Queen of Beauty and Love. He suffers severe wounds in the contest and is ministered to by Rebecca, daughter of the Jewish moneylender, Isaac of York.
On the way home from the tournament the Saxon party, together with the Jews and the wounded Ivanhoe, are captured by De Bracy, who fancies Rowena as his wife. They are taken to the castle of Front-de-Boeuf and imprisoned there. The Black Knight, Locksley and his band, Cedric, and others attack the castle and, with the help of Ulrica, an old Saxon hag, succeed in freeing the prisoners. Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Knight Templar, escapes to Templestowe, taking Rebecca with him.
Rebecca, accused of sorcery, is sentenced to die as a witch. Ivanhoe champions her in a trial by combat against the unwilling Bois-Guilbert. Rebecca is set free when the Templar falls dead from his horse.
The Black Knight reveals himself as King Richard, Ivanhoe and Rowena are married, and Rebecca and her father leave England for Granada.