Ward was born in Cornwell near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England, the daughter of Claire Leonora (née Baring) and the Hon. Peter Alistair Ward. Her grandfathers were William Ward, 3rd Earl of Dudley and the cricketer Giles Baring. Ward is also the great-granddaughter of William Ward, 2nd Earl of Dudley, Governor-General of Australia 1908–11, and sister of environmental campaigner and former actress Tracy Louise Ward, Duchess of Beaufort. She attended Hatherop Castle School, Hatherop, Gloucestershire, then the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. She left school at age 16 to become a fashion and photography model. She briefly dated David Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy.