Letters of George Hamilton Gordon (1784-1860), 4th Earl of Aberdeen

Scope and Content

The correspondence is composed of: a letter from Aberdeen, 1832, declining the offer of a villa at Woolmer which, although he knew of nowhere 'which would more take my fancy' the distance from London was 'much greater than we should find convenient'; a letter from Aberdeen at Addington Park to D. C. Guthrie Esq., 1847, in which he declines to give support for a petition; and, notes regretting his absence from a Lord Mayor's dinner, 1835, and from the opening of the New Coal Exchange, 1849..

Administrative / Biographical History

Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen, was born George Gordon in Edinburgh on 28 January 1784. By 1795 he was an orphan and his guardians were Pitt and Lord Melville. He was educated at Harrow and studied at St. John's College, Cambridge. He inherited the Earldom in 1801 on the death of his grandfather and travelled in Europe soon afterwards spending much of the time in Greece. Gordon spoke in the House of Lords for the first time in 1807. In 1813 he became Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipoteniary to Vienna, and signed an alliance with Austria (Treaty of Toeplitz). In 1814 he signed the Treaty of Paris, and for his diplomatic skill became Viscount Gordon. When the Duke of Wellington formed an administration in 1828, Lord Aberdeen became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with a seat on the Cabinet, and later that year he was made Foreign Secretary. During his office, Greece became independent. Under Sir Robert Peel's administration, Lord Aberdeen was Secretary for War and the Colonies and then in 1841 he was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, successfully concluding agreements with the Americans over boundaries in the north-east and in Oregon. In 1852, Lord Aberdeen became Prime Minister within a 'coalition ministry' of Lord John Russell, Palmerston, Gladstone, and the Duke of Argyll. His government became embroiled in the Crimean War and he resigned in 1855. He spoke for the last time in the Lords in 1858. His publications included An inquiry into the principles of beauty in Grecian architecture (1822). Aberdeen married Lady Catherine Elizabeth Hamilton (d. 1812), daughter of John, 1st Marquis of Abercorn, in 1805, and then Harriet, daughter of the Hon. John Douglas, in 1815. George Hamilton Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, died at Argyll House, London, on 14 December 1860, and was buried at Stanmore, Middlesex.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Among miscellaneous letters of a Scottish interest, purchased E. Hall, May 1976, Accession no. E76.21


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.8. Glover-Harriott. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Lord Aberdeen related material (check the Indexes for more details): letters (4) of Aberdeen, mentioning the Bannatyne Club and publications, 1827-1836, at La.IV.18; letter to Sir Walter Scott announcing his joint appointment (with Lockhart and Gooch) to report on the Stuart Papers, 1829, at La.III.584/68; letter to Aberdeen from the Rev. Dr. T. Chalmers, 1839, at Dk.7.47/86;

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes several locations of George Hamilton Gordon related material.