Mary Fitton (1578-1647): possibly the "Dark Lady" in Shakespeare's Sonnets.
This volatile court lady is also a possible model for his brunette characters like Rosaline and Cleopatra. Her career was certainly very erratic. About 1595 Mary Fitton became a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth. William Herbert, later Earl of Pembroke made her his mistress, and she was soon pregnant. In February 1601 Pembroke was sent to the Fleet Prison after admitting paternity but refusing to marry his mistress. In March 1601 she gave birth to a baby boy who died immediately (perhaps from syphilis, which it is believed Pembroke may have suffered from). After several other affairs Mary Fitton married Captain William Polwhele.
In 1623, together with his brother, Philip Herbert, 1st Earl of Montgomery, William Herbert sponsored the printing of the First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays. Herbert is one of several aristocrats claimed to be the model for the character of the youthful "Fair Youth" in William Shakespeare's sonnets, whom the poet urges to marry. Since Herbert, some years Shakespeare's junior, was a patron of the playwright, the seducer of a Dark Lady, and since his initials match with the dedication of the Sonnets to one "Mr. W.H.", "the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets", he is a popular candidate. Source: Curtangel from: http://www.tudor-portraits.com/Copyright.htm Picture and some data courtesy of the Yorck Project, under Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License (Wikipedia).