George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen (28 January 1784 – 14 December 1860), styled Lord Haddo from 1791 to 1801, was a British statesman, diplomat and Scottish landowner, successively a Tory, Conservative and Peelite politician and specialist in foreign affairs. He served as Prime Minister from 1852 until 1855 in a coalition between the Whigs and Peelites, with Radical and Irish support. The Aberdeen ministry was filled with powerful and talented politicians, whom Aberdeen was largely unable to control and direct. Despite his trying to avoid this happening, it took Britain into the Crimean War, and fell when its conduct became unpopular, after which Aberdeen retired from politics.
Born into a wealthy family with largest estates in Scotland, his personal life was marked by the loss of both parents by the time he was eleven, and of his first wife after only seven years of a happy marriage. His daughters died young, and his relations with his sons were difficult. He travelled extensively in Europe, including Greece, and he had a serious interest in the classical civilisations and their archaeology. His Scottish estates having been neglected by his father, he devoted himself (when he came of age) to modernising them according to the latest standards.
After 1812 he became a diplomat, and in 1813, at age 29, was given the critically important embassy to Vienna, where he organized and financed the sixth coalition that defeated Napoleon. His rise in politics was equally rapid and lucky, and "two accidents — Canning's death and Wellington's impulsive acceptance of the Canningite resignations" led to his becoming Foreign Secretary for Prime Minister Wellington in 1828 despite "an almost ludicrous lack of official experience"; he had been a minister for less than six months. After holding the position for two years, followed by another cabinet role, by 1841 his experience led to his appointment as Foreign Secretary again under Robert Peel for a longer term. His diplomatic successes include organizing the coalition against Napoleon in 1812–14, normalizing relations with post-Napoleonic France, settling the old border dispute between Canada and the United States, and ending the First Opium War with China in 1842, whereby Hong Kong was obtained. Aberdeen was a poor speaker, but this scarcely mattered in the House of Lords. He exhibited a "dour, awkward, occasionally sarcastic exterior". His friend William Ewart Gladstone, said of him that he was "the man in public life of all others whom I have loved. I say emphatically loved. I have loved others, but never like him".