Jean de Ligne was born in 1525, the son of Louis de Ligne, Baron of Barbancon and Marie of Glymes, Lady of Zevenbergen. He belonged to the closest circles of Emperor Charles V, and he was appointed stadtholder (governor) of several northern provinces of the Spanish Netherlands in 1549. In 1557, he fought at Saint-Quentin during the Italian Wars, and he befriended William the Silent, Lamoral, Count of Egmont, and Philip de Montmorency, Count of Hoorn, whom he would later distance himself from after they turned against King Philip II of Spain in 1568. When Louis of Nassau and Adolf of Nassau invaded Groningen, De Ligne was sent by the Duke of Alba to repulse their army, resulting in the Battle of Heiligerlee. De Ligne was killed in the battle, a great loss for the king.