Jan Sobieski was born in Olesko near Lwów (now Ukrainian Lviv) in 1629. His father was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman who ensured young Jan and his brother received a first class education and they both went on to study at Jagiellonian University in Kraków before Jan travelled abroad. He studied military history and tactics including, significantly as it would turn out, in Turkey (as an envoy of King Jan II Casimir) where he learned the Tartar language in the 1650s. Sobieski also spoke French, German and Italian and during this time met major European political figures including Louis II deBourbon, William of Orange and Charles II, where it is clear that he learnt the value of diplomacy as well as military might.
Jan Sobieski would have a lifelong love of France thanks in part to his French wife Marie (or 'Marysienka' as he fondly named her) whom he married in 1665 and fathered 14 children with (of whom 8 survived).
Having returned to Poland Sobieski went on to serve with distinction in the Battle of Warsaw (1656), where he led a Tartar cavalry regiment, and the Polish Swedish wars (1655-1660) among others. In 1666 he sided with King Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki during the Lubormirski rebellion and added another major victory to his list by defeating the Turks at the Battle of Chocim in 1673. It was this victory - allied to his reputation as a strong leader, astute military tactician and his canny political knack - that would result in him being elected as Polish King the following year in 1674.