It is possible that Leonardo used his coded mirror writing as a defence mechanism so that his work could not be used against him. What is more probable is that he was quite adept at riding the political storms of the day, working for whoever was best suited to patronise his ideas such as Ludovico il Moro Sforza in Milan, and then changing his allegiance to side with the invading French.
As an artist, it is universally agreed that Leonardo's marriage of art and science was significant for the advancement of painting techniques. He was famous for being a great painter long before his scientific work was acknowledged and appreciated. So the basis of his genius lies in his artistic achievements. The contradiction is that he designed weapons of war and, at the same time, marvelled at the beauty of nature that these devices could ultimately destroy.
Some historical characters stride like giants through the pages of history, think of Newton, Einstein, and Aristotle, Leonardo is certainly cast in the same mould. If art is about an emotional response then Leonardo da Vinci delivers at the highest level.
So what is his Legacy?
He has undoubtedly bequeathed a majestic, if small, body of paintings, an extensive amount of sketches and drawings, and scientific ideas that were years ahead of his time. But more than this Leonardo da Vinci ignites our imaginations, this extraordinary individual who lived 500 years ago makes us realise that if we ask difficult questions and are not afraid to seek out the answers then, in the future, all things are possible.
I have been privileged to see a number of Leonardo's paintings in the flesh; at the Louvre in Paris and also at the National Gallery in London. On 21st February 2009, I travelled to Manchester to view 10 of his drawings from the Royal Windsor collection. Needless to say, these small works oozed quality.
In January of 2012 I visited the excellent Leonardo da Vinci, Painter at the Court of Milan at the National Gallery in London, the public response was immense.
In a society where fame is fleeting and celebrity is often acquired very cheaply, it is refreshing that an artist, who died 500 years ago, can cause a huge queue to form, waiting in line to view his work.
That's beyond fame; that's immortality!