Beckinsale was born in Chiswick, London, England. She is the only child of actors Richard Beckinsale and Judy Loe. She has an older paternal half-sister, actress Samantha Beckinsale, but they have not had regular contact. Her father was of one quarter Burmese descent. She made her first television appearance at the age of four, in an episode of This is Your Life dedicated to her father. When she was five years old, her 31-year-old father died suddenly of a heart attack. Beckinsale was deeply traumatised by the loss and "started expecting bad things to happen. " Her widowed mother moved in with director Roy Battersby when Beckinsale was nine and she was brought up alongside his four sons and daughter. She has a close relationship with her step-father, who was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party during her childhood. Beckinsale helped to sell The News Line, a Trotskyist newspaper, as a child and has said the household phone was tapped following Battersby's blacklisting by the BBC. Family friends included Ken Loach and Vanessa Redgrave.