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Van de Weyer was born in Louvain on 19 January 1802. He was the son of Josse-Alexandre Van de Weyer (1769-1838) and Françoise Martine (née Goubau) Van de Weyer (1780-1853). He was the grandson of Jean-Baptiste (or Jean-Sylvain) Van de Weyer, who was from a bourgeois family of Bautersem, and Josse Goubeau, commissaire de police de la quatrième section de Bruxelles.
In 1811, his family relocated to Amsterdam. The family returned to Louvain when his father was named police commissioner for the city. Jean-Sylvain studied law at the State University of Louvain and set up as a lawyer in Brussels in 1823.
As a lawyer, he frequently defended newspapers and journalists that had fallen foul of the government of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, of which modern Belgium then formed the southern half.
On the outbreak of the Belgian Revolution in 1830, Van de Weyer was in Louvain, but hurried to Brussels where he became a member of the central committee of the Provisional Government of Belgium. His command of the English language resulted in him serving as a diplomatic representative of the revolutionaries. In 1831, King Leopold I appointed Van de Weyer his "special representative" in London. The King at the time was William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837, when his niece became Queen Victoria who reigned until January 1901. During his tenure as Minister in London, Van de Weyer became a "beloved and honoured friend of the royal family," as was his wife, who became close to the Queen and comforted her after the death of Albert, Prince Consort.
In 1839, he married Elizabeth Anne Sturgis Bates (1817-1878), the only daughter of Joshua Bates of Barings Bank, and formerly of Boston. She has a brother, William Rufus Gray Bates, who died at a young age. Together, they had two sons and five daughters, who were brought up in Marylebone and on their country estate, New Lodge, in the parish of Winkfield in Berkshire: