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Great Bastards of History    by Jure Fiorillo order for
Great Bastards of History
by Jure Fiorillo
Order:  USA  Can
Fair Winds Press, 2010 (2010)

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Although its title may raise a few eyebrows, Great Bastards of History is a fascinating book about some of history's most influential figures, who were also illegitimate children.

The captivating and stirring stories of fifteen remarkable people illustrate how the disadvantages and, in some cases, the stigma of being born out of wedlock can be overcome.

The list of these people may surprise you. William the Conqueror, Leonardo da Vinci, Elizabeth I, and Alexander Hamilton are numbered among the notables in this slightly infamous group, as are James Smithson, Jack London, Eva Peron and Fidel Castro.

Some of these individuals encountered more prejudice and had to overcome greater obstacles than others. For example, da Vinci's illegitimacy barred him from entering certain professions and Hamilton, even in later life, was sometimes referred to as the 'bastard son of a Scottish peddler.'

When her father, Henry VIII, had his marriage to her mother, Anne Boleyn, annulled, three-year-old Elizabeth was declared illegitimate by Parliament the day after her mother was beheaded. Obviously, she overcame this slight impediment and in 1559 was crowned Queen of England after Mary I died childless.

Each of the men and women profiled in this book achieved fame one way or another. Some, like Bernardo O'Higgins in Chile and Fidel Castro in Cuba, became charismatic leaders of revolutions who overthrew oppressive governments, while others, such as singer Billie Holiday, followed a path to stardom in the entertainment field.

Blending biography with history, political intrigue, melodrama and psychological analysis, Jure Fiorillo's entertaining and informative text is augmented by 125 color illustrations and photos.

At twice the price, this inexpensive volume would be a bargain. No matter what they were called during their early years (bar sinister, chance child, love child, catch-colt, bastard, or bachelor's baby), the famous figures profiled in this book prove that an unfortunate set of circumstances at the outset of their lives didn't keep them from achieving fame and, in some cases, notoriety as well.

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