Ransoms were commonly paid for nobility captured in battle, or as a result of losing combat in a tournament. This ransom could be monetary or simply the possessions, armour and/or horse of the combatant.
The SCA tries to recreate this in various ways. One is a special melee scenario where every combatant is given a ransom value and a starting 'fund' (commonly chocolate coins). If a fighter is defeated during the melee, then they must pay their worth in ransom to the victor/s. When the fund can no longer pay a ransom amount, then the fighter must withdraw from the melee.
The ransom value varies according to the rank and positions held by each fighter. Accordingly, royal peers are worth more than other peers, who are worth more than other fighters. There is a ransom melee each year at the William Marshall tourney in Stormhold.
Sometimes, a mysterious fairy in the form of royalty is seen bestowing wealth on those who whose funds are running low, but this can never be proven.