The British Library has apologised for linking the late poet Ted Hughes to colonialism and slavery.

In a statement the library said a reference to a distant ancestor of the former poet laureate had been removed from one of its documents.

The library has been seeking to explain how its collections are connected to wealth obtained through slavery and colonial violence.

British Library
The British Library (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

In a statement, the library said it “profoundly” regrets the distress it has caused by linking people to the actions of their ancestors.

“In particular we wish to apologise to Mrs Carol Hughes, widow of the late poet laureate, Ted Hughes, and to other family members and friends, owing to a reference included in the spreadsheet to a distant ancestor which should not have been made, and which we withdraw unreservedly,” it added.

“While the document involved has been removed pending review, this reference will not be made again.”

Ted and Carol Hughes
Ted and Carol Hughes (PA)

A statement issued on behalf of Hughes’ widow welcomed the apology “and its assurance that these comments will not be repeated”.

Hughes, who was appointed poet laureate in 1984 and is known for his Birthday Letters collection of poems, died in 1998.