Wixenford School, Ludgrove, Wokingham RG40 3AB, Regno Unito
Eton College, Windsor SL4 6DW, Regno Unito
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Villa La Pietra, Via Bolognese, 120, 50139 Firenze FI, Italia
Cimitero Evangelico agli Allori, Via Senese, 184, 50124 Firenze FI, Italia
Sir Harold Mario Mitchell Acton CBE (5 July 1904 – 27 February 1994) was a British writer, scholar, and aesthete. He wrote fiction, biography, and autobiography. During his stay in China, he studied Chinese language, traditional drama, and poetry, some of which he translated.
He was born near Florence, Italy, of a prominent Anglo-Italian family. At Eton College, he was a founding member of the Eton Arts Society before going up to Oxford to read Modern Greats at Christ Church. He co-founded the avant garde magazine The Oxford Broom and mixed with many intellectual and literary figures of the age, including Evelyn Waugh, who based the character of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited partly on him. Between the wars, Acton lived in Paris, London, and Florence, proving most successful as a historian, his magnum opus being a 3-volume study of the Medicis and the Bourbons.
After serving as an RAF liaison officer in the Mediterranean, he returned to Florence, restoring his childhood home La Pietra to its earlier glory. Acton was knighted in 1974 and died in Florence, leaving La Pietra to New York University.
Acton was Catholic;:151f  his cultural and historical commitment to the Church remained unchanged throughout his life. Acton's name was first on a petition submitted to Rome in 1971 by British cultural élite, requesting that the traditional Latin rite of the Mass not be abrogated in England.:359  His mother, the heiress Hortense Lenore Mitchell, a dominating personality in his life who lived on until the age of 90, did not make life easy for him but he still remained the devoted and admiring son.
After Acton's death, in reply to a magazine article that speculated both about the probable suicide of Acton's brother and about Acton's homosexuality, author A.N. Wilson remarked, "To call him homosexual would be to misunderstand the whole essence of his being" and that "He was more asexual than anything else". The article, by American writer David Plante, described Acton's time at Oxford as a "virile aesthete-dandy," but noted that while in China during the 1930s Acton's predilection for boys led to a classified government document describing him as a "scandalous debauchee," and prevented the possibility of his serving in the intelligence services there, when war broke out. Plante also described the young men whom Acton welcomed to La Pietra, including Alexander Zielcke, a German photographer and artist who was Acton's lover for the last twenty-five years of his life.
When Acton died he left Villa La Pietra to New York University. In leaving his family’s property and collection to New York University, Acton expressed his desire that the estate be used as a meeting place for students, faculty, and guests who might study, teach, write and do research, and as a centre for international programs. Following his death, DNA testing confirmed the existence of a half-sister born out of wedlock, whose heirs have gone to court to challenge Acton's $500 million bequest to New York University.
Acton was buried beside his parents and brother, William Acton,, in the Roman Catholic section of the Cimitero Evangelico degli Allori in the southern suburb of Florence, Galluzzo (Italy).
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