Giles Milton
Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America

from the publisher:
Big Chief Elizabeth is the swashbuckling story of the extraordinary attempts by English adventurers to claim, divide, and colonize what would be the biggest jewel in Queen Elizabeth's crown: North America. From Richard Hore's 1536 journey to the ill-fated Sir Humfrey Gilbert's attempt, to Sir Walter Ralegh's extravagant expeditions to Roanoke Island and Jamestown, which led to the first permanent English settlements in America, Milton tells a tale of startling greed, ruthless ambition, terrible hardship, and horrific wars between settlers and indigenous peoples.

This was the era of great naval exploration fueled by speculative fervor, of maritime daring and nautical disasters. In April 1586 Queen Elizabeth I acquired a new and exotic title. A tribe of Native Americans 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 flirtatious favorite, Sir Walter Ralegh. His first American expedition had brought back a captive, Manteo, whose tattooed face and otter-skin cloak had caused a sensation in Elizabethan London. In 1587, Manteo was returned to his homeland as Lord of Roanoke along with more than one hundred English men, women, and children. In 1590, an English supply ship arrived at the coastal colony, but the settlers had disappeared.

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, though Pocahontas herself made valiant attempts to thwart the massacre of settlers. While Ralegh's "savage" Manteo 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. A riveting historical mystery of colonial America and Elizabethan England, of the clash between old worlds and new, of civilization and savagery, Big Chief Elizabeth confirms Giles Milton's reputation as one of our most colorful and engaging popular historians.

Giles Milton is the author, most recently, of the critically acclaimed Nathaniel's Nutmeg and prior to that The Riddle and the Knight : In Search of Sir John Mandeville, the World's Greatest Traveler. He lives in London.

"[A] swashbuckling history . . . It's almost impossible to summarise Milton's book, from which marvellous, vivid stories spill out like swagsack booty. If Patrick O'Brian had scripted Gladiator it would read something like this." --Sukhdev Sandhu, The Guardian