He was the son of Jacob Boreel (1552-1636), burgomaster of Bergen-op-Zoom. Adam Boreel and the jurist Abraham Boreel were brothers; Johan Boreel was a half-brother. He was knighted by James I of England in 1618. As a lawyer, Boreel worked for the Dutch East India Company, and was part of a mission to resolve the Dutch and British commercial rivalry in the East Indies by a treaty.
Boreel became Baron of Vreendijk and Vreenhove. From 1627 to 1649 he was Pensionary of Amsterdam. During that period he travelled to England, with Johan van Reede van Renswouden, in an attempt to mediate in the First English Civil War. Then from 1650 for the rest of his life he served as Ambassador from the Dutch Republic to France.
In 1655 Boreel intervened almost decisively in the controversy over the invention of the telescope. He gave credit to Zacharias Janssen, over others who were more celebrated. This conclusion was adopted by Pierre Borel in his 1656 book on the subject.
- John Penry Lewis, List of inscriptions on tombstones and monuments in Ceylon, of historical or local interest, with an obituary of persons uncommemorated (1913) p. 110; archive,org.
- (Dutch) Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek, Boreel, Jacob.
- Albert Van Helden; Sven Dupré; Rob van Gent (2010). The Origins of the Telescope. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 21–2. ISBN 978-90-6984-615-6.
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- Esther Mijers; David Onnekink (2007). Redefining William III: The Impact of the King-stadholder in International Context. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 237–8. ISBN 978-0-7546-8639-2.
- Keblusek, Marika. "Reede van Renswouden, Johan van". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/23279. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Albert Van Helden; Sven Dupré; Rob van Gent (2010). The Origins of the Telescope. Amsterdam University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-90-6984-615-6.