François de Clermont-Tonnerre was born in 1629. He was the younger son of comte François de Clermont-Tonnerre (1601-1679) and Marie Vignier de Saint-Liebaut. He received a doctorate at the Sorbonne after studying under the Jesuits.
He was summoned to the court of Louis XIV, who wanted to amuse himself with his excessive vanity. Clermont-Tonnerre founded a prize for poetry of 3,000 francs, whose topic was always to be an elegy on Louis XIV and his deeds.