Jeanne was the daughter of Henry II of Navarre and Marguerite of Navarre. Marguerite was the sister of Francis I of France, and Jeanne grew up at the French court. When she was 13, Francis married her to the Duke of Cleves, but this political marriage was annulled four years later.
After the death of Francis and the accession of Henry II Jeanne was married to Antoine de Bourbon, "first prince of the blood," who would become heir to the French throne if the Valois line died out.
In 1555 Henry II of Navarre died, and Jeanne and her husband became rulers of Navarre.
The power struggle between Catholics and Huguenots for control of the French court and France as a whole led to the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion in 1562. Antoine de Bourbon chose to support the Catholics, but was mortally wounded at the siege of Rouen. Jeanne's son Henry now became "first prince of the blood."