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 story.
Moviegoers who were enraptured by Hollywood's recent spate of films featuring Elizabeth I will enjoy the latest absorbing history book from British writer Milton, whose 1999 triumph, Nathaniel's Nutmeg, received much acclaim. Sir Humfrey Gilbert was an eccentric English explorer with his eye on America who convinced the queen to grant him leave to establish a colony there, but he was never successful. After his death, Sir Walter Raleigh, a court favorite, was charged with exploring the New World--an appointment fraught with failures and successes. Raleigh established the first British colony on Roanoke (two decades before the settlement in Jamestown), but by the time badly needed supplies arrived from England in 1591, all the colonists had unaccountably vanished. That event has inspired many theories, but Milton argues persuasively that they were killed by the avenging chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas. Nevertheless, Raleigh played a huge role in Britain's long-standing claim to America, not only by bringing settlers to lay claim to the new land but also by introducing tobacco to Elizabeth's court and turning "smoke into gold." Although Milton's historical revelations are few and he has a penchant for dramatic prose ("the paved thoroughfare lies buried beneath the dust of centuries"), he offers another entertaining read. 50 b&w illus., 3 maps. History Book Club selection.