Sarah Harington was the daughter of Sir James Harington of Exton, and Lucy, daughter of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst. In 1586, aged around twenty, she married Francis Hastings, eldest son of the 4th Earl of Huntington. Following his death in 1595, she married George Kingsmill, Justice of the Common Please, who died in 1606, after which she married for the third time in 1611 to Edward, 11th Baron Zouche. Widowed again in 1625, a year later she married for the fourth and final time Sir Thomas Edmondes, Treasurer of the Royal Household; she was in her sixtieth year. She died in 1629 and was buried alongside her first husband in the Hastings' family church of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Leicestershire.
The present work was painted two years after the sitter's final marriage to Sir Thomas Edmondes, and the year before she died. She was also painted in miniature by Isaac Oliver, of which a version is in the Nelson Gallery, Kansas.