Lady Helen Emily Craven was born in London, the only surviving daughter of George Grimston Craven, 3rd Earl Craven, and his wife the Hon. Evelyn Barrington. She was educated privately at their country home of Ashdown Park, Oxfordshire. In 1901, she married Lt.-Col. Ian Forbes, with whom she had six children. Lady Helen Forbes was the author of Notes of a Music Lover (1897), The Outcast Emperor (1900), Lady Marion and the Plutocrat (1906), The Polar Star (1911), and The Saga of the Seventh Division (1920).