Charlotte Mary Yonge was born on August 11, 1823, at Otterbourne House, Otterbourne near Winchester in the county of Hampshire, where her parents lived with her grandmother. She was the first of two children and was raised into a religious family background, devoted to the Church of England, and much influenced by John Keble, Vicar of Hursley from 1835, a near neighbour and one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement.
Charlotte's childhood was Spartan but appeared to be happy. The small estate gave her father a comfortable but not luxurious living. Her father William, who came from the old Devon family, had been brought up at Cornwood, a few miles from the family seat of Puslinch, some seven miles south-east of Plymouth. He was in the 52nd regiment at Waterloo, a fact which was always a source of pride to Charlotte.