José María Aznar was born 25 February 1953 in Madrid, to a family that included several well-known conservative journalists, one of whom chronicled the Spanish Civil War from General Francisco Franco's perspective. Aznar's father and one of his grandfathers held political posts in Franco's authoritarian government. Aznar was educated at the University of Madrid, where he trained as an attorney. During the 1970s and 1980s, Aznar was employed as a tax inspector in Madrid. It was during this time that he became active in the right-wing Popular Alliance.
Aznar is married to Ana Botella, who is also a lawyer. In 1996, Botella played a minor role in her husband's campaign. During the 2000 campaign, however, she made visits to every region of the country, speaking with voters and pushing her husband's agenda. The couple has three children. For recreation, Aznar enjoys playing paddle tennis.