Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born on February 27, 1932, at Heathwood, her family's home on 8 Wildwood Road in Hampstead Garden Suburb, London. She received dual British-American citizenship at birth, as her parents, art dealer Francis Lenn Taylor (1897–1968) and retired stage actress Sara Sothern (née Sara Viola Warmbrodt, 1895–1994), were United States citizens, both originally from Arkansas City, Kansas. They moved to London in 1929, and opened an art gallery on Bond Street; their first child, a son named Howard, was born the same year.
The family led a privileged life in London during Taylor's childhood. Their social circle included artists such as Augustus John and Laura Knight, and politicians such as Colonel Victor Cazalet. Cazalet was Taylor's unofficial godfather, and an important influence in her early life.
In the spring of 1939, the Taylors decided to return to the United States due to the increasingly tense political situation in Europe. United States ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy also contacted Francis and encouraged him to return to the U.S. with his family. Sara and the children left first in April 1939, and moved in with Taylor's maternal grandfather in Pasadena, California. Francis stayed behind to close the London gallery, and joined them in December. In early 1940, he opened a new gallery in Los Angeles, and after briefly living in Pacific Palisades, the family settled in Beverly Hills.