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Big Chief Elizabeth

Big Chief Elizabeth Cover

Big Chief Elizabeth

How England's Adventurers Wooed the Native Tribes of America and Won the New World

By Giles Milton

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374265014, 352pp.

Publication Date: November 1, 2000


A riveting historical mystery of Colonial America by the author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg

In April, 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of Native Americans, "savages," had made her their weroanza-a word that meant "big chief." The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and by her favorite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, whose tattoed face and otter-skin cloak had caused a sensation in Elizabethan London. In 1857, Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord and Governor, along with more than 100 English men, women and children.In 1590, a supply ship arrived at the colony to discover that the settlers had vanished.

For almost twenty years the fate of Ralegh's colonists was to remain a mystery. When a new wave of settlers sailed to America to found Jamestown, their efforts to locate the lost colony were frustrated by the mighty chieftain, Powhatan, father of Pocahontas, who vowed to drive the English out of America. Only when it was too late did the settlers discover the incredible news that Ralegh's colonists had survived in the forests for almost two decades before being slaughtered in cold blood by Powhatan's henchmen. While Sir Walter Ralegh's "savage" had played a pivotal role in establishing the first English settlement in America, he had also unwittingly contributed to one of the earliest chapters in the decimation of the Native American population.

Praise For Big Chief Elizabeth

"New Yorkers would speak Dutch today instead of English if it weren't for the 17th-century craze for nutmeg. That is essentially Giles Milton's outrageous contention in Nathaniel's Nutmeg, though there is plenty of gore, chance, piracy and greed to the story as well. Astonishingly, by the end of this thought-provoking and well-researched book, the reader is convinced."-- Andrew Roberts, The Wall Street Journal

"Giles Milton's exciting account of the dangerous voyages, bizarre transactions and desperate battles of the Spice Wars makes today's drug trade look like a church bazaar." --Leo Carey, The Washington Post

"Giles Milton, the author of an earlier book on the British explorer John Mandeville, rivals Evan Connell in his ability to tell a good story. . . . [Nathaniel's Nutmeg is] a rousing historical romp. Milton leaves one both yearning for a time when the world seemed full of infinite adventure and appalled by what greed did to such a paradise." --Kevin Baker, The New York Times Book Review