In December 1851 George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen (1784-1860) became Prime Minister, leading a coalition of Liberal and Peelite MPs. A respected academic, Lord Aberdeen had previously served in the Foreign Service and then as Foreign Secretary in the Duke of Wellington's government. As Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen was unable to control his coalition cabinet, especially with regards to Lord Palmerston. Their disputes over the Crimean War eventually led to Aberdeen's downfall.
George William Frederick Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon (1800-1870) was the Foreign Secretary in Aberdeen's cabinet. He coined the phrase that the government was 'drifting' towards war with Russia, and is thought to have been responsible for maintaining Britain's relations with France, ensuring their eventual victory. During Lord Palmerston's premiership he was out of the government; he returned to the cabinet again during Lord John Russell's second time in power, remaining as Foreign Secretary under Gladstone until his death.