Anne Killigrew was born in early 1660, before the Restoration, at St Martin's Lane in London. Not much is known about her mother Judith Killigrew, but her father Dr. Henry Killigrew published several sermons and poems as well as a play called The Conspiracy. Her two paternal uncles were also published playwrights. Sir William Killigrew (1606–1695) published two collections of plays and Thomas Killigrew (1612–1683) not only wrote plays but built the theatre now known as Drury Lane. Her father and her uncles had close connections with the Stuart Court, serving Charles I, Charles II, and his Queen, Catherine of Braganza. Anne was made a personal attendant, before her death, to Mary of Modena, Duchess of York.
Little is recorded about Anne’s education, but it is known that she kept up with her social class, and she received instruction in both poetry and painting in which she excelled. In their introduction to Anne Killigrew in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar point out that because of her father’s work—he was a clergyman and a playwright, and her uncle was the well-known playwright and theatrical patentee Thomas Killigrew—she was encouraged to pursue her creative talents, unusual for women in the 17th century. Her theatrical background added to her use of shifting voices in her poetry. In John Dryden’s "Ode To the Pious Memory of the accomplished young lady, Mrs. Anne Killigrew," he points out that "Art she had none, yet wanted none, / For Nature did that want supply". Killigrew most likely got her education through studying the Bible, Greek mythology, and philosophy. Mythology was often expressed throughout her paintings and poetry.
Inspiration for Killigrew’s poetry came from her knowledge of Greek myths and Biblical proverbs as well as from some very influential female poets who lived during the Restoration period: Katherine Philips and Anne Finch (also a maid to Mary of Modena at the same time as Killigrew). Mary of Modena encouraged the French tradition of precieuses (patrician women intellectuals) which pressed women’s participation in theatre, literature, and music. In effect, Killigrew was surrounded with a poetic feminist inspiration on a daily basis in Court: she was encompassed by strong intelligent women who encouraged her writing career as much as their own.
With this motivation came a short book of only thirty-three poems published soon after her death by her father. It was not abnormal for poets, especially for women, never to see their work published in their lifetime. Since Killigrew died at the young age of 25 she was only able to produce a small collection of poetry. In fact, the last three poems were only found among her papers and it is still being debated about whether or not they were actually written by her. Inside the book is also a self painted portrait of Anne and the Ode by family friend and poet John Dryden.