Rau is the maternal granddaughter of former President Gustav Heinemann. She attended boarding school in Switzerland and Scotland (Gordonstoun, where The Prince Andrew was one of her classmates). Subsequently, she studied political science, economics and history at the University College of Wales and at King's College London.
On 9 August 1982, she married Johannes Rau, 25 years her senior, who was at that time the Prime Minister of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The couple had three children: Anna Christina (1983), Philip Immanuel (1985) and Laura Helene (1986). The family lived in Elberfeld until 1999, and then moved to Berlin.
She was the patron of :
- UNICEF Germany,
- the Müttergenesungswerk,
- the Bundesverband der Organtransplantierten,
- the Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung
- the Red Cross Youth of Germany.
- Austria : Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria (2004) 
- Estonia : Recipient 1st Class of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (November 2000) 
- Iceland : Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the Falcon (1 July 2003) 
- Latvia : Recipient 1st Class of the Order of the Three Stars
- "Anne Will: Die Gäste im Studio, Sendung vom 17.01.2010, 21.45 Uhr: Christina Rau, Kindernothilfe-Botschafterin" (in German). Bayerischer Rundfunk. Retrieved 2010-10-19.
- "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (pdf) (in German). p. 1654. Retrieved November 2012.
- Estonian Presidency Website (Estonian), Estonian State Decorations, Christina Rau
- Icelandic Presidency Website (Icelandic), Order of the Falcon, Johannes & Christina Rau, 1 July 2003, Grand Cross with Collar & Grand Cross respectively