The Beaufort family
Carel was the last descendant of the Beaufort family of statesmen and politicians that was very close to the Dutch royal family.
As could be guessed by its name, the Beaufort family’s origins lie in France, where its roots can be traced back to 1540 in the Seine-et-Marne town of Meaux. On the advice of his uncle Etienne de Franchimont, Pierre de Beaufort, a tailor and merchant from Sedan, decided to emigrate to the Netherlands in 1613, where he took up his uncle’s army function as an enrollment officer. He was headquartered in Hulst, in the water province of Zeeland, becoming the commissioner for supply and equipment in 1645.
Pierre and his offspring married into wealthy Zeeland families such as Colve, Van Mogge and Van Serooskerken, leading to his son and grandson becoming mayors of Hulst. Then the 4th-generation Beaufort, Pieter Benjamin, decided to leave Zeeland, setting off for The Hague before his children settled in Utrecht.
Member of the Utrecht provincial parliament Willem Hendrik de Beaufort (1775-1829) was the first in a dynasty of noblemen serving public duty around Utrecht, but by the middle of the 19th century the Beauforts had expanded their influence to a national level. Three of Willem Hendrik’s grandchildren, Carel’s grandfather among them, became members of parliament while two of them served as cabinet minister as well.
Related to other noble families such as the Roëlls and the Schimmelpennincks, Karel Antonie de Beaufort (1850-1921) acquired the Maarsbergen castle located to the East of Utrecht in 1882 and turned it into the family estate. He was known as Karel Antonie Godin de Beaufort by then, as by the King’s order he was allowed to insert the Godin prefix ahead of his surname in 1856 . A member of the conservative anti-revolutionary party, Karel Antonie was appointed minister of Finance in 1888, but did not accomplish any significant feats.
His liberal elder brother Willem Hendrik was the mercurial talent in the family, becoming mayor of Vleuten, Oudenrijn and Haarzuilens (three rural municipalities near Utrecht) before his 25th birthday, ahead of climbing the provincial ranks to end up in national parliament before the turn of the century. The youngest of the family, Binnert Philip, was the mayor of Baarn, Eemnes and The Hague, and father to writer Henriëtte de Beaufort. Cousin Willem Hendrik was the most prominent Beaufort on a national level, who served as Foreign Minister in the Pierson cabinet.
Meanwhile, leading a secluded life towards his death in 1921, Karel Godin de Beaufort left the Maarsbergen estate to Carel’s father Johan Willem (‘Jan’), who married Hillegonda (‘Gonda’ to close friends and relatives), known later as the douairière of Maarsbergen. Carel’s sporting genes must have passed on from his father’s passion for horse racing, as Jan de Beaufort was a keen long-distance rider and became pioneer of the military pentathlon of fencing, shooting, swimming, running and horse racing. Jan, nicknamed ‘Kaas’ (cheese) because of his bald head, was a man of endurance who would run for hours, swim upstream in the IJssel river and ride from Amsterdam to Vienna in a mere ten days.
Jan and Gonda were married in 1930 and had two children. Cornelie was born in 1931 while Karel followed in 1934. During his teenage years Karel would change his name to Carel to give it a more international flavour. The two children were brought up to enjoy sports but Carel can’t get his head around horse riding, claiming that it makes him dizzy. Instead, from the age of 5, Carel developed a passion for cars that would never leave him, starting out by sitting on his father’s lap driving the wheel of dad’s big Packard. One time, his habit of tinkering with stuff got mixed up with his love for cars when he attached two rubber cables to the back of a car in which two magistrates from Amsterdam had come to visit his father. Inevitably, when the cables were stretched to their limits, the car was slung back into a tree, damaging it irreparably. It caused Carel’s father to come after him with a shotgun!
Being a cavalry officer himself, Jan was keen to see Carel join the army, especially since his son failed to complete grammar school. Modern cavalry had nothing to do with horses, however, so Carel was enrolled in a tank regiment. Soon he took command of a 49-ton Centurion tank but he hated being a soldier. He got bored regularly and hated the army mentality of repressing free thought. Of course he got into trouble more than he could afford, and was glad that he met Eindhoven car dealer Thieu Hezemans during his time in the service. Hezemans tipped the scale in Carel’s head that was already balanced towards a career in motor racing. He sold Carel his first Porsche, which would be used for his second go at the Tulpenrallye. His cousin Barthold de Beaufort – 15 years older on the day – came out of retirement to become his navigator for the occasion.
Father Jan died in 1950, aged 73. With no-one around to stop him from racing, Carel made the final decision to become a racing driver. Jan would never see his son shine on the racing tracks of Europe and the Americas.. On the other hand, mother Gonda lived to bury their son.