These two men from very different backgrounds and different centuries had one thing in common: They both loved their fathers very much. When George W. Bush lost his father George H. W. Bush on 30 November 2018 he said the following about the latter: “... the best father a son and a daughter can have ...” (please watch the Eulogy: George W. Bush at the funeral of his father)
When Leonardo da Vinci died on 2 May 1519 his elder son Francesco da Melzo who lived at his side since he has been ten years old, wrote in a letter, of which we still have a copy (the original got lost in the 18th century), to the elder half-brothers of his father the following: “To Ser Giuliano and his honoured brothers ‒ I believe that the death of your brother, Maestro Leonardo, has already been certified to you. He was to me the best of fathers, and it is impossible for me to express the grief that his death has caused me. Until the day when my body is laid under the ground, I shall experience perpetual sorrow, and not without reason, for he daily showed me the most devoted and warmest affection. ...”
If you ask me how it is possible that the art historians are still telling us that Francesco da Melzo was a student of Leonardo da Vinci and not a son of the latter, I can give you only one answer: They have not the slightest knowledge about the traditions of the Renaissance and they are not interested to fix this ignorance.
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the people lived in an estate-based society. The highest estate was that of the high nobility, the next estate was that of the low nobility, then came that of the very rich patricians and merchants, then that of the craftsmen (butcher, shoemakers, painters etc.) and at the bottom that of the people who had only their work to survive. These estates are strictly divided. It is almost impossible to leave your estate to enter a better one. Marriages between the estates were discouraged. But they happened – therefore we have so many of these “clandestine marriages”.
A person who belonged to the estate of low nobility like Francesco, Count of Melzo, would have never followed a painter like Leonardo da Vinci everywhere, because the estate of a painter was too far below of his own. If Francesco da Melzo had desired to learn to paint, Leonardo da Vinci had to come to his place and to stay there to teach him. Therefore we know that the relationship between Leonardo da Vinci and Francesco da Melzo was not that of a master and his student, but of a father and his son. Of course, this relationship had to be denied in front of their fellow human beings. Otherwise Francesco da Melzo would have lost his estate. To be a man of low nobility was for Francesco da Melzo only possible also, because his mother was of very high nobility.
PS.: Regarding the topic “son and real father” please read my article: Who was the real father of King Olav V of Norway