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Beware the home-grown urban myth

Reading in the Guardian yesterday that BBC Radio 4 Today presenter Ed Stourton was the 27th Baron of Mowbray was one of those “I didn’t know that but it’s not surprising” moments. It turns out that he is not. The title belongs to another Edward Stourton.

Rightly the paper apologises in its corrections and clarifications column today. Also rightly it makes no excuses, but it is one of those mistakes which any journalist could make. The 26th Baron died last month and the obituaries recorded the death of the head of one of the country’s leading Roman Catholic families. He had been educated at Ampleforth and was succeeded by his son Edward.

Now the BBC’s Edward Stourton is obviously well-born, he attended Ampleforth and has written a biography of Pope John Paul. He is also about the same age as the man who actually has the title.

It is easy to imagine that a gossip got their facts wrong and the story spread rapidly among journalists. So it is really a question of: “Beware the home-grown urban myth.”

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