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price of redemption demanded by the captor of a person, vessel, or city. In ancient times cities frequently paid ransom to prevent their plundering by captors. The custom of ransoming was formerly sanctioned by law. Soldiers, given the right to kill or enslave their prisoners, frequently preferred to free them after receiving payment. This mitigated bloodshed, for it was more profitable to hold enemies for ransom than to massacre them. One of the rights of a feudal lord was to call upon his tenants to ransom him if he were captured in battle. The amount of ransom varied with the rank of the captive; a king or a noted warrior brought a great sum. For the payment of the ransom of Richard IRichard I,
 Richard Cœur de Lion
, or Richard Lion-Heart,
1157–99, king of England (1189–99); third son of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
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 (Richard Cœur de Lion) a special tax was levied in England; the French sovereign paid heavy ransoms for Bertrand Du GuesclinDu Guesclin, Bertrand
, c.1320–80, constable of France (1370–80), greatest French soldier of his time. A Breton, he initially served Charles of Blois in the War of the Breton Succession.
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; and Scotland was impoverished in paying for James IJames I,
1394–1437, king of Scotland (1406–37), son and successor of Robert III. King Robert feared for the safety of James because the king's brother, Robert Stuart, 1st duke of Albany, who was virtual ruler of the realm, stood next in line of succession after the
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. Merchant vessels captured in privateeringprivateering,
former usage of war permitting privately owned and operated war vessels (privateers) under commission of a belligerent government to capture enemy shipping.
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 were sometimes ransomed by their owners. After receiving the ransom, the privateer sometimes furnished a ransom bill, which allowed safe conduct for the ship to one of her native ports. Today the term generally refers to the sum paid to a kidnapper for the release of an individual or to an airplane hijacker for the release of passengers, crew, and plane.


John Crowe. 1888--1974, US poet and critic
References in periodicals archive ?
It's like you are being held to ransom in your own office," said Jim, at the Edgbaston base of the UK's longest established independent record company.
The people being held to ransom are 4,000 in the pension scheme BRENDAN OGLE ON ESB PENSION PLAN CHANGES
Mumbai: The Indian tennis association is refusing to be held to ransom by regular Davis Cup players, who have hinted at a possible boycott if their demands for a greater involvement in the running of the team are not met.
The Freight Transport Association's Ian Gallagher said: "Businesses still trying to recover from the worst recession in recent history are being held to ransom by gratuitous and cynical price hikes across what is an essential trade corridor.
How lucky are all who will never have to find out how they would react if taken hostage and held to ransom against possibly unattainable goals.
ALEX MCLEISH insisted Birmingham will not be held to ransom when signing players after new owner Carson Yeung vowed to spend up to pounds 40m during the January transfer window.
I WAS so annoyed to see the city held to ransom last Thursday afternoon, with all workers trying to get home.
It's a no brainer we need to get on with Nuclear so we cannot be held to ransom by oil producers
The Swansea City manager insists he will not be held to ransom by 'over-priced' British-based players so he is going global to strengthen his squad, writes PETER SHUTTLEWORTH.
A DRUNK holidaymaker had his false teeth held to ransom by a bar owner in Spain - after he wrecked a table and chair.
I cannot believe that the future of students across this country is being held to ransom in this way," he said.
Coventry City manager Micky Adams has warned midfielder Michael Doyle that he will not be held to ransom over a new contract.