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Mary Fitton

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FITTON, MARY (c. identified by some writers with the "dark lady" of Shakespeare's sonnets, was the daughter of Sir Edward Fitton of Gawsworth, Cheshire, and was baptized on June 24, 1578. About 1595 Mary Fitton became maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth. Her father recommended her to the care of Sir William Knollys, comptroller of the queen's house hold, who was so and already married, but he soon became suitor to Mary Fitton, in hope of the speedy death of the actual Lady Knollys. There is no hint in her authenticated biography that she was acquainted with Shakespeare. William Kemp, who was a clown in Shakespeare's company, dedicated his Nine Daies Wonder to Mistress Anne (perhaps an error for Mary) Fitton, "Maid of Honour to Elizabeth"; and there is a sonnet addressed to her in an anonymous volume, A Woman's Woorth defended against all the Men in the World • In 1600 Mary Fitton led a dance in court festivities at which William Herbert, later earl of Pem broke, is known to have been present ; and shortly afterwards she became his mistress. In Feb. 16o1 Pembroke was sent to the Fleet in connection with this affair, but Mary Fitton, whose child died soon after its birth, appears simply to have been dismissed from court. Mary Fitton seems to have gone to her sister, Lady Newdi gate, at Arbury. A further scandal has been fixed on Mary Fitton by George Ormerod, author of History of Cheshire, in a ms. quoted by T. Tyler (Academy, Sept. 27, 1884). She married Cap tain Polwhele, by whom she had a son and daughter. Polwhele died in 1609 or 161o, about three years after his marriage. Her second husband, Logher, died in 1636. Her own will, which was proved in 1647, gives her name as "Mary Lougher." In Gaws worth church there is a painted monument of the Fittons, in which Anne and Mary are represented kneeling behind their mother. It is stated that from what remains of the colouring Mary was a dark woman, which is of course essential to her identification with the lady of the sonnets, but in the portraits of Arbury (the iden tity of which has been challenged), described by Lady Newdigate Newdegate in her Gossip from a Muniment Room (1897) she has brown hair and grey eyes. (See also SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM.)

lady, william and died