John Francis Edward Acton was born at Besançon in 1736, the son of Edward Acton and his wife, Catherine Gray. He served in the navy of Tuscany and was well regarded for his bravery at the Invasion of Algiers in 1775. In 1779 he was appointed by Grand-Duke Leopold of Tuscany to reorganise the Tuscan navy. So able was he that he was rapidly advanced to Commander-in-Chief of the army and the navy, minister of finance and finally prime minister.
In 1791 he succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of the fifth baronet, Sir Richard Acton, a distant cousin.
With the success of French arms in 1798 John accompanied King Ferdinand and the Queen Maria Carolina together with the British Ambassador, Sir William Hamilton, in their flight to Palermo. The king was restored the following year and John established a reign of terror.
Around 1800 John, by then aged over 60 married his niece, 13 year old Mary Ann, daughter of his brother, Joseph. A Papal dispensation was obtained to permit the marriage. She bore him three children.
When the French entered Naples in 1806 he fled to Sicily with the King and the Queen.
John died at Palermo on on 12 August 1811 and was succeeded in the Baronetcy by his son, Ferdinand.
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