The county was named after the daughter of James I, Elizabeth. Her marriage to the head of the German Protestants, Frederick the Elector of Palatinate, was arranged by her father as part of the never-ending jockeying for power in Europe. [James I also tried to marry his son Charles to the daughter of the Catholic king of Spain, thus appeasing both Catholics and Protestants in England, but the King of Spain rejected the offer and the religious tensions in England were not reduced by these political maneuvers.]
Frederick lost his position within one year after marrying Elizabeth. He tried to accept the crown to Bohemia as well as serve as Elector of Palatinate, but his enemies united against him and Elizbeth was queen for just one winter.
Elizabeth City was originally named Kikotan (also spelled Kecoughtan and Kikowtan), presumably a word for the natives who were living there when the English arrved in 1607. These natives were recent immigrants themselves, setlling the peninsula after Powhatan defeated and expelled the previous occupants.
They were friendly to the English, but Sir Thomas Gates either worried about safety (including potential attack by the Spaniards and the Dutch) or coveted their corn fields after the "starving time" of the 1609-10 winter. The English seized the native's land while the men were out hunting, and for some reason the natives never attacked the settlement in response.