Like his father François Annibal d'Estrées, also Marshal of France, Jean pursued a military career from a very young age. He became a colonel at 13, a maréchal de camp at 25 and a lieutenant general at 33.
He was loyal to the Royal family during the Fronde.
In 1668 he joined the new French Navy on demand of his friend Colbert. There his patron was the Duke de Beaufort. He rose through the ranks very fast, thanks to the influence of his family name, becoming Marshal of France in 1681. This wasn't justified, as D'Estrées had no naval experience and furthermore he had a detestable character which alienated his subordinates.
His first campaign was in the Caribbean, where he would come back four times more, becoming the French naval specialist in the region.
During the Franco-Dutch War, he was put in command of the French fleet which would fight alongside the English fleet against the Dutch. He participated on board the Saint Philippe in the Battle of Solebay in 1672 and the next year on the la Reine, in the Battle of Schooneveld and the Battle of Texel.
None of these battles were won and he was blamed for his hesitant attitude.
These successes were overshadowed by the disaster of the Las Aves Archipelago where his entire fleet of 17 ships was sunk.
In 1678, Admiral d'Estrées and his fleet of 17 vessels, including several hired buccaneers, was dispatched on a mission to conquer the Dutch-occupied islands of Bonaire and Curacao. d'Estrées' fleet past the Los Roques Archipelago towards Bonaire. A small fleet of Dutch boats, seeking to defend themselves from the French attack, set sail from Curacao destined for Las Aves. Once assembled on the archipelago, the Dutch maneuvered their ships into the heart of Las Aves' lagoon. As night fell, lanterns were lit. Simulating the lights of a town, the Dutch sailors hoped to convince the French that they had reached Bonaire. In so doing, they could attract the French galleons onto the reef. The Admiral headed his flagship, the 70-gun le Terrible - straight for the trap and directly towards the coral reef, against the advice of his subordinates, who suspected the danger. By the time the breakers were spotted, it was too late. Le Terrible couldn't avoid the reef. d’Estrées fired guns to warn off the rest of the fleet, but the crews of the other ships thought he was under attack by the Dutch and rushed to his aid. One by one, the rest of the vessels in the fleet struck the reef and sank. 500 sailors drowned.
His son Victor Marie d'Estrées also made a career in the Navy and became Marshal of France.