Charlotte Mary Yonge was born in Otterbourne, Hampshire, England, on 11 August 1823 to William Yonge and Fanny Yonge, née Bargus. She was educated at home by her father, studying Latin, Greek, French, Euclid and algebra. Her father's lessons could be harsh:
He required a diligence and accuracy that were utterly alien to me. He thundered at me so that nobody could bear to hear it, and often reduced me to tears, but his approbation was so delightful that it was a delicious stimulus... I believe, in spite of all breezes over my innate slovenliness, it would have broken our hearts to leave off working together. And we went on till I was some years past twenty.