Richard Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 2nd Baron Acton

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Acton
Richard Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 2nd Baron Acton 1922.jpg
Richard Lyon-Dalberg-Acton in 1922
British Ambassador to Finland
In office
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Preceded by Coleridge Kennard
Succeeded by George Jardine Kidston
Personal details
Born Richard Maximilian Dalberg-Acton
7 August 1870
Died 16 June 1924(1924-06-16) (aged 53)
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Dorothy Lyon (1904–1924)
Occupation Diplomat, politician

Richard Maximilian Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 2nd Baron Acton KCVO JP DL (7 August 1870 – 16 June 1924) was a British peer and diplomat, ultimately Britain's first Ambassador to Finland in 1919–20.

Early life[edit]

Dalberg-Acton was born in Bavaria, in the then German Empire, first and only surviving son of John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton and his German wife, Countess Marie Anna Ludomilla Euphrosina von Arco auf Valley. He completed his education in England at Magdalen College, Oxford.[1]

Diplomatic career[edit]

Dalberg-Acton entered the British Foreign Office in 1894. He began a career in Europe as Third Secretary in the Diplomatic Service at the British Embassy in Berlin in 1896. He was promoted Second Secretary in 1900 and served in the Berlin embassy until 1902, also the year he succeeded to his father's peerage.[1]

He then served as Second Secretary at successive embassies in Vienna from 1902;Berne, Switzerland; Madrid in 1906–07, and The Hague.

In 1911 he was promoted First Secretary, in which grade he was charge d'affaires at Darmstadt and Karlsruhe in Germany until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. He served again in Switzerland as Counsellor of Embassy at Berne in 1915–16, and became Consul-General in Zürich in 1917. In 1919 he became first British Ambassador in recently independent Finland at Helsinki, then retired from the Foreign Office in 1920.[1]

Government posts[edit]

Alongside his diplomatic career, Lord Acton, a Liberal peer, was a Lord-in-Waiting, from 1905 to 1915, to Kings Edward VII and George V under the Liberal administrations of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith.[1]


The fourth generation of his family to have been born abroad, he was, despite his paternal English roots and service to the British government, not formally a British subject until he was naturalised by Act of Parliament in 1911.[2]

In 1919 he assumed by Royal Licence the additional surname of Lyon before his patronymics.[2]

He married Dorothy Lyon, daughter of Thomas Henry Lyon, of Appleton Hall on 7 June 1904. The couple had nine children:

  • Hon. Marie Immaculeé Antoinette Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1905–1994) married John Douglas Woodruff.
  • Hon. Dorothy Elizabeth Anne Pelline Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1906–1998) married Joseph Edward Eyre and had issue.
  • John Emerich Henry Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 3rd Baron Acton (1907–1989)
  • Hon. Richard William Heribert Peter Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1909–1946) married Jill Ehlert.
  • Hon. Helen Mary Grace Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1910–2001) married Prince Guglielmo Rospigliosi and had issue.
  • Hon. Gabrielle Marie Leopoldine Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1912–1930)
  • Hon. Joan Henrica Josepha Mary Clare Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1915–1995)
  • Hon. Margaret Mary Teresa Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1919–1997)
  • Hon. Ædgyth Bertha Milburg Mary Antonia Frances Lyon-Dalberg-Acton (1920–1995) married John Alexander Callinicos and had issue; her son Alex Callinicos is a Marxist political theorist and activist.

Honours and styles[edit]


Acton was appointed to the Royal Victorian Order as a Member (fourth class) in 1901.[3] Members (fourth class) were declared to be Lieutenants (LVO) in 1984 by Elizabeth II.[4] He was promoted to be a Knight Commander of the same order in the 1916 New Year Honours.[5]

He was also invested with the 1st class Order of the Crown (Prussia), as a Grand Officer of the French Legion of Honour, a Grand Cross of the Danish Order of the Dannebrog,[6] and the Serbian Royal Red Cross.[2]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1870–1901: The Hon. Richard Dalberg-Acton
  • 1901–1902: The Hon. Richard Dalberg-Acton MVO[a]
  • 1902–1916: The Rt Hon. The Lord Acton MVO[b]
  • 1916–1919: The Rt Hon. The Lord Acton KCVO
  • 1919–1920: His Excellency The Rt Hon. The Lord Acton KCVO
  • 1920–1924: The Rt Hon. The Lord Acton KCVO
  1. ^ Acton was a Member (fourth class) of the Royal Victorian Order. The class of Member (fourth class) was renamed in 1984 to be Lieutenant.
  2. ^ Although The Lord Acton was a baronet, by custom the post-nominal of "Bt" is omitted, as Peers of the Realm do not list subsidiary hereditary titles.


  1. ^ a b c d Who Was Who, 1916–1928. C and A Black. 1947. p. 5. 
  2. ^ a b c Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 1925. Burke's Peerage Ltd. p. 72. 
  3. ^ "No. 11284". The Edinburgh Gazette. 12 March 1901. p. 293. 
  4. ^ "The Royal Victorian Order". Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society. Retrieved 8 August 2009. 
  5. ^ "No. 12889". The Edinburgh Gazette. 1 January 1916. p. 6. 
  6. ^ Kelly's Handbook of the Titled, Official and Landed Classes. Kelly's. pp. 69–70. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Richard Lyon-Dalberg-Acton, 2nd Baron Acton.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Coleridge Kennard
as Chargé d'Affaires
British Ambassador to Finland
Succeeded by
George Jardine Kidston
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Dalberg-Acton
Baron Acton
Succeeded by
John Lyon-Dalberg-Acton