The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846)
Consistory of February 18, 1839 (XIII)

(47) 1. ACTON, Charles Januarius (1803-1847)

Birth. March 6, 1803, Naples. Neapolitan patrician. Second son of Sir John Francis Acton (1736-1811), sixth baronet of Aldenhan Hall, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and Mary Anne Acton (1786-1873), who was his niece, both were originally from Shropshire. His baptismal name was Charles Januarius Edward. The family had moved to Naples from England shortly before his birth. His father had spent almost his entire life in Italy, first in the service of Tuscany and since 1779 in the service of the kingdom of Naples; he was prime minister and commander-in-chief in the Kingdom of Naples (1780-1804). He was the uncle of English historian Lord Acton.

Education. Studied at the School of Abbé Auéqué, Parsons Green, London (1811); at Westminster School, London 1820 (had to leave it because of his religion); received private tutoring with an Anglican clergyman; also studied at Magdalene College, Cambridge University, 1819-1822; admitted at Lincoln's Inn on June 29, 1822. Following his ecclesiastical vocation, he went to Rome; entered the Pontifical Academy of Ecclesiastical Nobles in 1823.

Priesthood. Ordained in 1827. Privy chamberlain supernumerary of His Holiness Leo XII, June 1827. Secretary of the nunciature in France, 1828. Governor of Bologna shortly after. Secretary of the S.C. of the Discipline of Regulars. Auditor general of the Apostolic Chamber, February 2, 1837.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal and reserved in pectore in the consistory of February 18, 1839; published in the consistory of January 24, 1842; received the red hat and the title of S. Maria della Pace, January 27, 1842. Protector of the Venerable English College. He was instrumental in the division of England into eight apostolic vicariates in 1840. All important matters having to do with England and its territories were referred to him by the pope. Interpreter in the interview between Pope Gregory XVI and Czar Nicholas I of Russia, 1845. Participated in the conclave of 1846, which elected Pope Pius IX. Opted for the title of S. Marco, December 21, 1846. Prefect of the S.C. of Indulgences and Relics, December 22, 1846. Due to his poor health, retired to Palermo and later to Naples. The king of Naples had asked him to accept the appointment of archbishop of Naples, but he refused.

Death. June 23, 1847 (he suffered from a heavy attack of ague which ultimately led to his death) in the house of the Society of Jesus in Naples. Exposed and buried, temporarily, in the metropolitan cathedral of Naples.

Bibliography. Baxter, Dudley. England's cardinals. With an appendix showing the reception of the sacred pallium by the archbishops of canterbury and Westminster. London : Burns & Oates, 1903, pp. 75-76; Bellenger, Dominic Aidan, and Stella Fletcher. Princes of the Church. A history of the English cardinals. Gloucestershire : Sutton Publishing, 2001, pp. 111-113; LeBlanc, Jean. Dictionnaire biographique des cardinaux du XIXe siècle : contribution à l'histoire du Sacré Collège sous les pontificats de Pie VII, Léon XII, Pie VIII, Grégoire XVI, Pie IX et Léon XIII, 1800-1903. Montréal : Wilson & Lafleur, 2007. (Collection Gratianus. Série instruments de recherche), p. 75-76; Ritzler, Remigium, and Pirminum Sefrin. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi. Volumen VII (1800-1846). Patavii : Typis et Sumptibus Domus Editorialis "Il Messaggero di S. Antonio" apud Basilicam S. Antonii, 1968, pp. 32, 42 and 43.

Webgraphy. Biography by John Joseph A'Becket, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; his genealogy, A1 B2, Libro d'Oro della Nobilità Mediterranea; biography, in English, Wikipedia; biographical data, in English, A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge; Cardinal Acton, The Tablet archive, 21st June 1947, page 7; biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; his portrait as a child, Italian School (possibly), The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, The Public Catalogue Foundation, BBC; his portrait by Vincenzo Morani, The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, The Public Catalogue Foundation, BBC; his engraving, portraits and arms, Araldica Vaticana.

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