Francoise R was born in Brussels in 1939 to an English mother and an Austrian father. Her mother, who was from Birmingham, had come to work in Brussels as a librarian and had met and married and settled there. Her father moved from Austria to Holland and then to Belgium and worked for printing companies. Her father joined the Belgium Air Force as a pilot. He was twice captured and escaped. He escaped to England and joined the RAF. His mother survived the war in Belgium. On the German invasion of Belgium, Francoise's mother took the baby and tramped the roads going from port to port looking for a ship. They lived rough. She caught a boat and arrived in the UK where she went to her family in Birmingham.
Francoise's brother was born in 1944. When her father came out of the RAF they went to live in Croydon in c1946 where she attended Crowham Hurst Private Girls School. Her parents divorced. Francoise had a liberal Jewish upbringing, although her mother came from a more orthodox family. Her brother became an architect and Francoise trained as a teacher, although she would have preferred to focus on athletics or drama.