George Hamilton Gordon
Earl of Aberdeen

The Earl of Aberdeen was to lead the remaining rump of Peelite Conservatives into coalition with the Whigs in 1852. He had made a reputation for himself as a peacemaker in two periods as Foreign Secretary, once under Duke of Wellington and again under Sir Robert Peel.

It was thought that Aberdeen presided over some of the most impressive political figures of the Nineteenth Century: - Russell as Foreign Secretary, Palmerston as Home Secretary and Gladstone as Chancellor of the Exchequer - but controlling such big personalities proved difficult for Aberdeen to handle. It is ironic that it was his field of expertise, foreign affairs, that was to cause so much of a problem for Aberdeen. In particular, Britain was drifting to war with Russia and would land a force in the Crimea. The war itself was ultimately successful, but the increased scrutiny and use of telegraph allowed British domestic opinion to discover just how incompetent and inefficient the British armed services could prove to be. Indeed, responsibility for failing to conduct the Crimean War efficiently was pinned on Aberdeen personally. Attempts to hold an inquiry into the conduct of the war led to his resignation in 1855. It was an inglorious end to such a promising administration.

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by Stephen Luscombe