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George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, KG KT FRS PC, lived from 28 January 1784 to 14 December 1860. Also known as Lord Haddo from 1791 to 1801, he was a politician who served as British Prime Minister from 1852 until 1855. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
George Hamilton-Gordon was born in Edinburgh, the eldest son of George Gordon, Lord Haddo, and grandson of George Gordon, 3rd Earl of Aberdeen. His early years were divided between the family home at Haddo House in Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh, but his father died in 1791 and his mother in 1795 and he was brought up by Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville. He was educated at Harrow School in England, and St John's College, Cambridge, where he was awarded an M.A. in 1804.
Having become Lord Haddo on his father's death in 1791, Hamilton-Gordon became the 4th Earl of Aberdeen when his grandfather died in 1801. After graduation he travelled widely in Europe, returning to London where, in 1805 he married Lady Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Abercorn and took his seat as a Scottish Tory peer in the House of Lords. He also found time to form the Athenian Society.
Lady Catherine Elizabeth died in 1812 and Hamilton-Gordon joined the foreign service, signing the Treaty of Töplitz between Britain and Austria in October 1813 and helping negotiate the Treaty of Paris. In July 1815, Hamilton Gordon married Harriet, daughter of John Douglas, and widow of James, Viscount Hamilton. He took little part in public affairs in the following 13 years, spending much of his time developing Haddo House and the surrounding estate.
From 1828 George Hamilton-Gordon was appointed to a series of senior government posts including Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Foreign Secretary (twice), and Secretary of State for War. In December 1852 he became Prime Minister at the head of a coalition government of Whigs and Peelites. His cabinet was spilt on foreign affairs and somewhat reluctantly, Hamilton Gordon agreed to Britain's entry into the Crimean War in March 1854. Reports of the poor management of the war soon filtered back to Britain, and when Parliament voted for an enquiry on 29 January 1855, Hamilton Gordon resigned as Prime Minister.
George Hamilton-Gordon died in London in 1860. He had one son and three daughters from his first marriage, all of whom died before him. He also had four sons and one daughter from his second marriage. The oldest, George, succeeded him to become the 5th Earl of Aberdeen. The second son became General Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon, K.C.B; the third was Reverend Douglas Hamilton-Gordon; and the youngest son, Arthur Gordon, was created Baron Stanmore in 1893.