Leonardo da Vinci
If certain family value groups got wind of this, we could expect to see a retrospective campaign against one of the main characters of Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles. In all seriousness, he definitely was a bastard: born out of wedlock to a middle-class gentleman and local peasant girl, this quintessential Renaissance man was denied entrance to university, and did not have the privilege of the Humanist education which was afforded to his peers. Yet, by the virtue of his phenomenal genius, and frankly ridiculous array of talents (painting, sculpting, architecture, music, mathematics, engineering, anatomy, cartography, botany and writer all came naturally to Leo), he was rightly thought of as one of the most creative and brilliant men of a particularly creative and brilliant era.
Best buddies with the Pope and Florentine man-about-town Lorenzo di Medici, da Vinci retired with a comfortable pension of 10,000 scudi – I’ve tried in vain to find an approximate value for this is in Euro, but the Wikipedia article gave off the vibe that this was a fairly cushy sum. This generous pocket money was provided by the King of France, who carried him back from Italy like a war trophy, and reportedly cradled his head as he died. Endearing? Creepy? Whatever your verdict, it’s clear that this was one popular dude.
Even now, over 500 years on, the world still has a massive man-crush on Leonardo da Vinci. In fact, that other great Leonardo d’something, Leo DiCaprio, can attribute his namesake to way back before he was even born, when his mam was inspired by some paintings in an Italian museum.
The only eligible bastardette on this list, Maria Eva Duarte de Perón served as the First Lady of Socialist Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. Born of an adulterous relationship between a wealthy rancher and a local peasant woman, Eva bitterly recalled the humiliation of her father’s funeral when she and her family were quickly escorted out of the church after paying their respects. As an adult, Perón destroyed her original birth certificate, which exposed her illegitimacy by listing her name as ‘Eva Maria Ibarguren’, her mother’s surname. She then forged a new document under her father’s surname (Duarte), and using this certificate to marry President Juan Perón.
After Duarte abandoned his illegitimate offspring, the family were forced to take up work as cooks in the mansions of local ranchers. At the age of 15, she ran away to Buenos Aires, the ‘Paris of South America’, to pursue a career as an actress, where her beauty and charm won her many admirers. Prior to meeting Colonel Juan Perón in 1944, Eva had little interest in politics. At 48, he was literally twice her age, and set about educating her, creating a ‘second I’. As host of a popular radio show, Perón’s impoverished background allowed her to credibly show solidarity with the Socialist policies of her husband, and her rhetoric-laden broadcasts were a vital part of his successful 1964 Presidential campaign.
The legacy of ‘Evita’ is a controversial topic for many people outside of Latin America. One can argue that she flaunted her beauty to get what she wanted, using powerful men to grow her prestige and popularity. There is evidence of her corruption, and her reputedly cosy dealings with Nazi war criminals in the 1950s. Yet, Evita has been credited with advancing the cause of female suffrage in Argentina, which lends her a bit of feminist clout to her gold-digger reputation. In her lifetime, she was thought of as a saint; through her charitable foundations, she reached out to the lepers and the syphilitic, kissing and touching them. It is said that throughout Latin America, she is the only woman to have aroused such emotions of devotion and faith as the Virgin of Guadalupe. In many homes, a portrait of Evita, her blonde hair around her benevolent face like a halo, is displayed beside a picture of the Virgin Mary. Not bad for an illegitimate house cook from Las Pampas.
Adopted at birth by Paul and Clara Jobs, Steve Job’s biological parents were two university students. The pair had no choice at the time but to put the infant up for adoption, because his father’s Arabic family did not approve of his Catholic mother. Interestingly, they did marry later that year, and had a second child, the novelist Mona Simpson (no relation to Homer Simpson’s mom).
To be fair, Jobs didn’t have to contend with the same social, religious and economic barriers which were imposed on Perón and da Vinci. Growing up in 1960s San Francisco and attending Liberal Arts college in Portland, Oregon meant that Jobs was exposed to a fortunately forgiving environment, which ultimately fostered his outside-the-box approach to design and innovation. I’m not a massive Apple-geek myself, and there’s been a fair amount of backlash against Jobs since his death last year, but he did invent the iPhone. Cut him some slack!
So that concludes my ode to all those who struggled with discrimination, simply because Dad didn’t put a ring on it. Next time you find yourself using the term ‘bastard’ in a derogatory sense – hold up. Being a bastard never really was a great personal failing in an individual, so use your imagination. Below is one of my favourite cinematic insults, which I hope will inspire you in all your bad-mouthing cussery.
‘How art thou, thou globby bottle of cheap, stinking chip oil? Come and get one in the yarbles, if ya have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou!’ – Alex, A Clockwork Orange.