Wilmot was born at Ditchley in Oxfordshire, England. He was the son of a Cavalier hero and his deeply religious wife. By the age of eighteen he had already been involved in a number of affairs, one of which resulted in the birth of an illegitimate daughter. In 1665 he kidnapped the much sought after heiress Elizabeth Malet, whom he later married. His rakish lifestyle and wit earned him the favour of Charles II and he remained a favourite of the king even though he was banished from the court on a number of occasions.
Wilmot's poetry often expresses a feeling of disgust at the futile nature of his life, a life he seemed to repent for during its last year, whilst being cared for by the rising Anglican Bishop, Gilbert Burnet. Wilmot's work gives great insight into the over-indulgent lifestyles led in the court of Charles II and he writes more frankly about sex than any previous writers in the seventeenth century. He influenced and was admired by a large number of poets including John Dryden, Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. He was also known to be a great patron of writers, if a little unpredictable with his support.