Some years ago, researching a book of contemporary social history, I telephoned the College of Arms. Would it be correct, I wished to know, to continue calling Antony Lambton "Lord Lambton", or was he, after disclaiming his peerage in the Earldom of Durham in order to remain in the Commons, simply "Mr Lambton".
Wagner - for it was he who answered my call directly - said, "Tell me, are you going to refer to that over-the-fence affair with the Maida Vale lady which led to Lambton's resignation?" - "Yes" - "And are you, by chance, going to mention the other peer whom the Press implicated in the same scandal, and who also resigned?" - "Yes" - "Then it will be very costly for you, since the latter lord owed his putative implication in the affair solely to the fact that the lady had written what appeared to be his title in her engagement diary: it was, in fact, not his title, but the address of a block of flats that took its name from one of his noble ancestors. You cannot be too careful over such things."
He waited a few seconds, no doubt to hear my slight gasp of relief at seeing a libel headed off at the proof stage, then said, "And by the way, it is still 'Lord Lambton' - the presumption of courtesy remains whatever the disclaimer."