In the late 1730s, an unknown East Indiaman smashed to pieces on the reefs of Lambasi Bay on South Africa’s Wild Coast. Next morning, the local inhabitants stumbled upon Bessie, a seven-year-old English girl huddled beside a rock on the beach. She was not the first to be shipwrecked on these treacherous shores. Many before her had starved to death, or been killed or cannibalised; some walked hundreds of miles to trading posts. But these locals chose to take Bessie home and bring her up as one of their own. She grew to be a woman of legendary beauty and wisdom, eventually becoming the Great Wife of a prince. So began the enduring legacy of a dynasty that extends to many of today’s Xhosa royal families. Using the oral histories of the tribes, and written accounts by early missionaries and traders who met Bessie’s grandchildren, Hazel Crampton traces the story of Bessie and her descendants throughout the turbulent history of the Eastern Cape until the present day.