"All my life I've played second fiddle to that weakling--why? Because his mother was a princess and mine was not. I'm the eldest son, but he was the Crown Prince, he lived in the royal palace, he dined with kings. Well, today the table is set for Rudolf -- but it's Michael who's going to the feast."
He's the son of the ruler of the land. Therefore, he's the Prince, next in the line of succession, and a privileged member of his society, yes?
Born with the shame of unmarried parents, he is marginalized at best, reviled and banished at worst (not to mention unable to inherit), but unlike his more sympathetic counterpart, the Heroic Bastard, the Bastard Bastard is not trying to rise above society's expectations. Instead, his Parental Abandonment has created the ultimate Freudian Excuse. He's The Woobie who's got it in for his father, his siblings, or maybe even the world. His issues have driven him to seek revenge, or made him vulnerable to manipulation by the forces of Evil. Generally male, although female examples are becoming more common.
This trope was wildly popular in the Middle Ages, but the oldest examples are Older Than Feudalism.
While not exactly a Discredited Trope, the subversion is more common today. Modern audiences have a less stringent view toward children and wedlock and tend to be more accepting of a literal bastard character. While modern settings don't really make use of this trope as plenty of modern fiction deals with settings that draw inspiration from the middle ages (particularly high fantasy but plenty of other genres too) it'll continue to be relevant for as long as people want to write about aristocracies and so forth.
Stands a good chance of being a Manipulative Bastard. While it's possible, he is unlikely to be a Magnificent Bastard. There's nothing magnificent about this quivering pile of daddy-issues. Don't you dare compare him to his legitimate brother The Evil Prince. Subversions belong to Heroic Bastard.
A subtrope of The Resenter.
Anime and Manga
- Reimei no Arcana - Cain, the blond older brother of Caesar, because apparently black hair is very important in the royal country. He's got quite a grudge for it.
- Romeo X Juliet has Lord Montague himself. He's responsible for the series other bastard on top of everything else he does.
- The reason Bad from Midnight Panther kills of his whole family. Knowing that the "legitimate son" was actually his half-sister probably wouldn't have helped...
- This trope could just as easily be called The Loki. Son of a powerful ruler? Check. More popular, heroic, half-brother who is heir to the kingdom? Check. Freudian Excuses out the wazoo? You betcha!
- In Manhunter, it's eventually revealed that Kate's birth father Walter Pratt is one of these, since he's the child of Iron Munro and Sandra Knight, the original Phantom Lady and was given up for adoption after birth. The reason he hasn't been around? He's been in prison for killing Kate's mother in front of her when she was a baby, and when he shows up in the story it's because he's been diagnosed with blood cancer and needs Kate's blood, so he kidnaps his grandson and tortures Kate's ex-husband. Real stand up guy.
- In Usagi Yojimbo: Tomoe's evil, bloodthirsty cousin Noriko is actually her half-sister due to Tomoe's father being in love with Noriko's mother, who happened to be Tomoe's mother's sister. When she confronted Tomoe's father he rejected her so she killed him, and poisoned her "step" father for being a weakling for good measure.
Films -- Live-Action
- Will of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is Robin's illegitimate half-brother, who blames Robin for their father abandoning him and his mother.
- Thor: Loki is actually an orphaned Frost Giant. After discovers this, he becomes more evil, wanting both to keep Thor on Earth/Midgard and destroy Jotunheim, the planet of his apparent heritage.
- Played with by Lord Henry Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, who was conceived out of wedlock during a magical ritual. His mother dies during childbirth, he goes on to murder several people (including his father), and tries to sieze control of the British Empire by making the world fear him. However, Holmes mentions that he's a former member of the House of Lords, so he may not have suffered some of the prejudices normally associated with bastards.
- Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. The House of Festil had several of these, notably King Imre's son Marek (by his sister Ariella). King Donal Haldane has several, and Prince Conall Haldane has one born posthumously.
- A Song of Ice and Fire's Loads and Loads of Characters has many bastards, and about a dozen last names reserved solely for the use of "natural" (read: illegitimate) children. Jon Snow, a main protagonist, is of the heroic variety, but there are Bastard Bastards out and about as well, such as Ramsay
SnowBolton. And also Joffrey Baratheon, although it wasn't known for a long time, and his siblings, also bastards, seem pretty decent. Bastard Walder, the eldest bastard of Walder Frey, is noted to be a tough soldier and a bit of a bastard(the two are pretty intwined in that world), but compared to some of his siblings, particularly Black Walder, he is positively noble.
- Jon Snow pretends to be this when convincing Mance Rayder that he has actually turned his back on the Night's Watch.
"Jon Snow" “And did you see where they put the bastard” (referring to how he was seated away from his trueborn siblings when feasting the royal family)
- Quite generally, while a few Bastards in ASOIAF are clearly Bastard Bastards and a few are clearly Heroic Bastards, many are just in the background trying to make the best of their ambiguous social position - or seriously a mix of both. Ramsay Bolton engages in evil deeds, but since his father also is evil, they may arguably be what his father approved and wanted.
- Also while Bastard Bastard is listed as an "Always Male" Trope, female bastards are common in ASOIAF. One, at Shields, is employed by her father as a servant to her legitimate half-sisters - and when the Ironmen conquer her home and take them captive, sides with the conquerors and enjoys exchanging clothes with her sisters and forcing them to serve her. Though considering how cruelly they were described as treating her, it may just be a case of just deserts.
- Ramsay Snow is, next to Joffrey, probably the best example ASOIAF offers. Especially notable because his father openly blames this on his 'tainted blood.' Its clear that, though Roose Bolton is cruel and vicious, he's pragmatic about it and doesn't let it effect his plans. Ramsay, however, is basically just a Serial Killer with a noble title and is threatening his father's own power with his wanton cruelty.
- Eric, bastard son of Oberon and Faiella of Karm in The Chronicles of Amber. Locks his brother Corwin up and burns his eyes out with a red hot iron. Though among Oberon's sons, legitimate or otherwise, the ones who aren't scheming SOBs stick out. Corwin eventually realizes his rivalry with Eric comes from having a lot in common.
- Sort of Black Michael in The Prisoner of Zenda. He's a usurper and one of the villains of the novel, but he's more of an Anti-Villain, and atypically, he's the popular one; it's his brother, the King who is an insecure incompetent.
- Abimelech, son of Gideon in the Book of Judges 8:29-9:56 is the Trope Maker. The good parts:
(Judges 8:30 ESV) Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32And Gideon the son of Joash died...
(9:5) And he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone.
(9:22) Abimelech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech.
- Then, after a months-long conquering spree:
(9:53) And a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull. 54 Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, "Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, 'A woman killed him.'" And his young man thrust him through, and he died. 55And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone departed to his home. 56 Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers.
- Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate son of the Pope, who crops up a heckuva lot in Machiavelli's The Prince, although a lot of what Machiavelli attributes to him was actually the work of his father...
- Female version: Senna Wales, from Everworld, who is the daughter of a human man and the witch who apparently seduced him. Definitely illegitimate, and definitely a bastard.
- Brokenstar of Warrior Cats. Since his mother, Yellowfang, is a medicine cat who is not allowed to have kits, he is considered illegitimate. His father, Raggedstar, who is also the leader of ShadowClan and his mother have to pretend that he is an orphaned kit, so as not to arouse suspicion. He murders his father to become leader.
- Implied with Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess.
- Hadz in White as Snow is the bastard son of the king, and he somehow not only becomes something of a (literally) underground crime lord, he has probably murdered several people and regularly rapes his own half-sister.
- Laverham, a crime lord from Patricia Wrede's Mairelon The Magician, was the bastard son of a minor lord.
- Tamora Pierce's Shatter Glass has one.
- Tess Mercer on Smallville is The Baroness. She's a cold-blooded Broken Ace, Manipulative Bastard and Corrupt Corporate Executive who takes no crap from anyone, even after the reveal that she is Lionel Luthor's bastard daughter. Her Earth-2 counterpart, on the other hand, who was raised by her father in the shadow of his legitimate children? She's a whiny mess of Parental Issues, who can't decide if she wants to be Daddy's Little Villain or stab him in the back, and is in an incestuous relationship with her adopted brother Clark. Jeez. What a difference an upbringing makes.
- Dr. Gregory House's parents were married. . . just not to one another.
- In the Blackadder episode "Born", Prince Edmund is revealed to have been born on the wrong side of the blanket. His identical descendent Lord Edmund Blackadder is also canonically a bastard. Both men repeatedly and underhandedly scheme to take the throne of England.
- The series Merlin has Morgana as a female partial subversion. The King has treated her as his daughter her entire life but has not told her that she actually is. When she discovers the truth it leads to a rather jarring bit of Did Not Do the Research when she attempts to assassinate her father and half-brother so she can claim the throne.
- The Palace: Subverted with Prince George. When his brother King Richard's legitimacy is in doubt, all four royal siblings take a DNA test just to be sure. Thinking he might turn out to be the rightful heir to the throne, George asks palace staffers for reigning advice with undisguised enthusiasm. The show really makes it seem like he will turn out to be illegitimate, so it's surprising when it doesn't happen.
- "Wrathchild", by Iron Maiden.
My mother was the Queen, my father never seen, I was never meant to be
Now I spend my time looking all around for a man who's nowhere to be found
- Mordred was the illegitimate son of King Arthur and his sister, and plotted against his father. Virtually every modern adaptation of the legend has this, though usually in different ways. Special mention goes to the 1998 Merlin series, wherein Mordred's bastardry was taken Up to Eleven. However, in the earliest references to "Medraut" very little is known about him, including his relationship with Arthur and whether he was friend or foe. The earliest myths to assign him a relationship to Arthur place him as a nephew but still don'e assign him a Bastard Bastard role. That came much later.
- Aigisthos, son of Pelopia, who was raised by Pelopia's uncle Atreus as his own son. He was actually the result of Pelopia being raped by her father Thyestes and went on to murder his adoptive father Atreus and later also his adoptive brother Agamemnon, after seducing his wife Clytaimnestra. Later killed by Agamemnon's son Orestes.
- This might be a case of Values Dissonance, because Aigisthos did these things to avenge his father's suffering and his brothers' deaths at the hands of Atreus.
- Hagen (in Scandinavian versions: Högni), the illegitimate (usually half-elven or half-dwarven) half-brother of Gunther/Gunnar started out as one of the protagonists of the story of the downfall of the Burgundians, but gradually evolved into the major heavy of later retellings as in the context of the Nibelungenlied, where he however no longer is Gunther's kinsman. But even in early versions such as the saga of Atli (Attila), Högni does become responsible for Gunnar's death when he tells Atli that he and Gunnar are bound by oath not to reveal where the Burgundian hoard is hidden so long as both of them are alive. Atli then has Gunnar killed only to have Högni tell him that he is not going to tell him anyway. So Högni ends up dead too, but the secret dies with him.
- Forgotten Realms: An absurd amount of Cormyrean young nobles look embarrassingly alike, due to the attitude and habits of Azoun IV. Some joined one of the coups, some are loyal to the official Obarskyr line's rule.
- Similarly, this is the basic plot of the Baldur's Gate series, with Bhaal fathering thousands of Bastard Bastards and the main character having to be one or be a Heroic Bastard to complete the game.
- A Champions module features a team of supervillains called the Zodiac. Aquarius falls under this trope, being the son of King Henry VI and an unnamed peasant woman (who was later burned as a witch). His goal within the team is, naturally, to become king of England.
- Edmund from King Lear, undoubtably the best-known example of the trope. He gets a lengthy soliloquy on why his bastard status causes him to be treated as a lesser man than his brother Edgar, but is still pretty much a Complete Monster.
- Don John from Much Ado About Nothing is also a bastard and a villain, but since he's in a comedy instead of a tragedy, he's much less effective.
- Very narrowly less effective. If Hero had actually killed herself, he could have been as vile and magnificently bastardish as Iago from Othello.
- Hagen in Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung - the son of Alberich and queen Grimhild, the mother of king Gunther. The mastermind behind everything in the last day of the tetralogy, who also does not mind murdering Siegfried and Gunther himself to lay his hands on the Ring his father made.
- Prince Weiss from Arc Rise Fantasia has shades of this as well as shades of Heroic Bastard. His Jerkass attitude led to quite a few people who believe that he shouldn't be on the throne because he's a concubine's son and acts war-hungry throughout the game, not hesitating to invade another country without any formal declarations, his response to them is pretty much "Up yours". On the other hand, he was very protective and caring towards L'Arc, and he also knowingly got himself cursed trying to save his and L'Arc's mother. Then there's the fact that all of his actions, as horrible as they may be, is ultimately meant to free humanity from the clutches of religion, a goal the the heroes soon pick up after his death.
- Marcello of Dragon Quest VIII straddles the line between this and Heroic Bastard. Born to a philandering rich guy who almost made him his heir, only to ditch him and his mother after his wife gave him a son, Marcello does work tirelessly to claw his way above the stigmata of his social station, and does manage to make a name for himself. ...Unfortunately, he does so by playing into the corrupt factions of the Church of the Goddess. Eventually, he goes sailing over the Moral Event Horizon with eyes wide open by assassinating the Pope and stealing his station, robbing him of any sympathy... for most people.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is debatably one of these. His father Hojo, a bastard and Mad Scientist in his own right, takes advantage of Lucrecia in a emotional state (she's guilty about about her involvement in her current boyfriend's father's death) and knocks her up. The first thing Hojo does is start experimenting on his unborn son. Sephiroth is gifted with superhuman abilities and raised by the Shinra Power Electric Company to be the perfect soldier. When he learns about his birth he snaps, makes up a ridiculous story in which he isn't the unwanted bastard/experiment of a mad scientist but one of the last survivors of a ancient race of highly evolved humanoids (the Cetra) and sets off on a journey to kill everyone by smashing a meteor into the planet.
- In Shadow Hearts Covenant, Nicolai Conrad, who first appears as a Vatican exorcist. It turns out that he's the illegitimate son of Russia's Tsar Nicolas, using the resources of a secret society to plot the overthrow of his father. It gets worse when he makes a compact with one of the universe's three strongest demons.
- Kratos is definitely one of these.
- Vin Vulpen in Kevin and Kell.
- In Drowtales, the Nidraa'chal were a group of demonic summoners who called themselves "The Bastard Daughters of Sharess" and while drow don't have an equivalent of human marriage and in fact inherit through the mother it seems to carry the connotation of "unrecognized" and "unable to inherit" that it's had historically. And one of their leaders, Kalki, is specifically referred to as Snadhya'rune's illegitimate daughter, which seems to refer to the fact that she's apparently not legally recognized as a member of both mother's family.
- Strictly speaking, Michael is not a bastard, but the child of a morganatic union
- killing countless civilians in the process