Big Chief Elizabeth

Big Chief Elizabeth : How England's Adventurers Gambled and Won the New World

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In April 1586, Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of North American Indians had made her their weroanza - 'big chief'.The news was received with great joy, both by the Queen and her favourite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, whose tattooed face had enthralled Elizabethan London. Now Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord and Governor. Ralegh's gamble would result in the first English settlement in the New World, but it would also lead to a riddle whose solution lay hidden in the forests of Virginia.A tale of heroism and mystery, BIG CHIEF ELIZABETH is illuminated by first-hand accounts to reveal a remarkable and long-forgotten more

Product details

  • Paperback | 432 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 30mm | 320g
  • Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Hodder Murray
  • United Kingdom
  • English
  • B/W maps and illustrations throughout
  • 0340748826
  • 9780340748824
  • 273,927

Review Text

The story of the establishment of the first permanent English settlement in the New World has been long overshadowed by the legend of the Pilgrim Fathers. Giles Morton, author of the bestselling Nathaniel's Nutmeg, unearths in a brilliantly-researched work the enthralling bravery, recklessness and daring of the Elizabethan adventurers who gambled their lives and fortunes to break Spain's dominance in the New World. Sir Walter Raleigh was the guiding inspiration and organising force behind several exhibitions. His first, in 1584, brought back a tattooed native, Manteo, to excite the court and provide valuable information. The Queen leant her name, but cannily not her money, to the project that saw Raleigh City established the following year in the land now known as Virginia, receiving a new title from her distant subjects Weroanza, big chief. Disaster was ever-present, with the last expedition of 1587 being abandoned for two and a half years while England fought off the Armada. The delayed rescue mission found the 107 colonists disappeared, a cryptic message carved into a tree trunk the only clue to their destination. Their fate becomes the central mystery of the book. It was 20 years before another colony was attempted, establishing Jamestown against an onslaught of disease and starvation that wiped out three quarters of the colonists. Hostility from the native emperor provoked brutal conflict between Indians and colonists, adverted by the intervention of the emperor's daughter Pocohontas on behalf of Captain John Smith. Milton captures the combination of idealism and avarice that drove the adventurers on, drawing heavily on original sources to understand the mindset of the age. When Raleigh, the last hero of the Elizabethan age, went to the scaffold in 1618 he insisted on facing west, towards the colony whose future was now secure and the vanished colonists he had failed. (Kirkus UK)show more

About Giles Milton

Giles Milton is a writer and historian. He is the internationally bestselling author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth, The Riddle and the Knight, White Gold, Samurai William, Paradise Lost, Wolfram and Russian Roulette. He has also written three novels and three children's books. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in south London. Find out more about Giles and his books on his website,, and Wikipedia page,, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at more

Review quote

Like Giles Milton's previous book, ... Big Chief Elizabeth is a cracking read, a successful attempt at popular history Evening Standard 'It's almost impossible to summarise Milton's book, from which marvellous, vivid stories spill out like swagsack booty. ... Milton is a very contemporary historian' Guardian 'The story of the first Virginia colonies, now told in pacy style in Big Chief Elizabeth, is stirring and fitfully tragic...This is a marvellous story well retold' Sunday Times Milton is a great storyteller ... he sets about filling in the historical gaps with relish, using his considerable imagination to conjure mood from dry parchment Sunday Express Grippingly told true adventure story Daily Mail Milton ... draws a vivid picture of the terrible hardships the settlers endured The Times 'Milton knits together the most vivid anecdotes and descriptions from a very colourful literature of exploration and colonization, and anyone wanting easy access to them has it here'. The Times Literary Supplement Milton has a terrific eye for the kind of detail that can bring the past vividly to life off the page The Spectator Splendid stuff ... fascinatingly told ... An excellent book Time Out A wonderfully colourful story told with pace and verve Sunday Telegraphshow more

Rating details

663 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 28% (184)
4 43% (282)
3 25% (165)
2 4% (29)
1 0% (3)
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