Henrietta Moraes was born Audrey Wendy Abbott in Simla, northern India, where her father was stationed with the Indian military. Her father left the family when Audrey was young, and she was sent to London to be raised by her grandmother. She attended a convent school and then secretarial college.
By 1950, when she was 19, she was working as an artists' model, and went on to become the muse to numerous British artists of the "Soho set" of the early 1950s to mid-1960s. Francis Bacon painted her at least 16 times; Lucian Freud, her lover, painted her at least three times. She led a free-spirited, bohemian lifestyle that encompassed serial marriages, affairs, drug use, communes, caravan life, and even a short prison sentence.
In 1961, she married as her third husband Dom Moraes, an Indian poet. Later in life, she became clean and sober and wrote a volume of short stories and memoirs entitled Henrietta, published in 1994.