Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 'Lots of people remember their history lessons from school 'as dates and battles, kings and queens, facts and figures. 'But the story of our past is open to interpretation 'and much of British history is a carefully edited 'and even deceitful version of events.' You might think that history is just a record of what happened. Actually, it's not like that at all. As soon as you do a little digging, you discover that it's more like a tapestry of different stories, woven together by whoever was in power at the time. In this series, I'm going to debunk some of the biggest fibs in British history. In the 17th century, politicians and artists helped turn a foreign invasion into the triumphal tale of Britain's glorious revolution. Hello. Woohoo! 'In the 19th century, a British government coup in India...' GUNSHOT '..was rebranded by the Victorians 'as the civilising triumph of the Empire. 'And in this episode, 'I'll find out how the story of the Wars of the Roses was invented 'by the Tudors to justify their power. 'And then immortalised by the greatest storyteller of them all. 'Shakespeare presented this 'as the darkest chapter in the nation's history.' Now is the winter of our discontent. Two rival dynasties, the House of Lancaster and the House of York, were locked in battle for the crown of England. This was the real-life Game of Thrones. Brothers fought against brothers. Anointed kings were deposed. And innocent children were murdered. Never before had the country experienced such treachery and bloodshed. In 1485, a wicked king, Richard III, was slain. And Henry Tudor took the throne. Henry's victory would herald the ending of the Middle Ages and the founding of the great Tudor dynasty. It was to be England's salvation. Or so the story goes. With history, the line between fact and fiction often gets blurred. In 1455, the village of Stubbins, in Lancashire, was the scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses. The fighting began with volleys of arrows, but then, to their horror, both sides realised that they'd run out of ammunition. In desperation, the Lancastrians grabbed some makeshift weapons - they happened to have a supply of their local delicacy, black puddings from Bury. And with these, they pelted the Yorkists. But, as luck would have it, the Yorkists had their own supply of missiles - Yorkshire puddings. With which they bombarded the Lancastrians. Now, most disappointingly, this 15th century food fight never really happened. It's a local legend that was conjured up as long ago as 1983. But what the Battle of Stubbins Bridge does tell us is that, although the dates and the details might be hazy, the Wars of the Roses are still alive and well in what you might call our national memory. What you think you know about the Wars of the Roses though and what really happened are two quite different things. According to the history books, the Wars of the Roses is the story of the fatal rivalry between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, between the red rose and the white. But the saga of a country divided by 30 years of bloody wars and deadly hate was largely invented by the Tudors, then spun into the dynasty's foundation myth by the greatest storyteller of all, William Shakespeare. And there is a firm basis for this tale of devastating national conflict. On a single day in 1461, the bloodshed was only too real. In the middle of a snowstorm, on the 29th of March, in Towton, Yorkshire, the Lancastrian and Yorkist forces clashed head-to-head. The result was utter carnage. The Lancastrians started out the day pretty well, but then the tide began to turn against them. They were chased by the Yorkists down this steep and icy slope, the blizzard was still blowing, and that little river at the bottom was flooded, so they couldn't get any further. This meant that the Yorkists came down the hill and started massacring them. So many men died that their blood stained the snow red. This became known as the Bloody Meadow. A century later, William Shakespeare would depict the battle as a medieval Armageddon, where fathers slaughtered their own sons and sons murdered their own fathers. Towton had come to symbolise a country torn apart by war. The scale of the killing was so great that there's been nothing else quite as bad in the whole of our history. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, in July 1916, 19,000 British soldiers were killed. But here at Towton, contemporary reports talk about 28,000 dead. That's 1% of the entire population killed on a single day. 20 years ago, Bradford University's archaeology department revealed the true barbarity of the fighting when they uncovered the remains of 43 men killed at Towton. George, we've got five skulls of people here on the table. How was this gentleman finished off here? It's kind of square. That is with a horseman's hammer. But this particular skull has another sign of extreme violence inflicted with a pole axe. The head was forced down into the spine, so the skull has actually shown signs of splitting. This sort of desecration of the body, that's actually robbing them of life in the next life. You are disfiguring them and they can't be resurrected. This battle is truly horrendously brutal, but is it the norm for the Wars of the Roses? No. It was exceptional. Certainly, in the enormous number of people who fought and died at Towton. I think people might have the impression that they were just fighting for decade after decade after decade, but within this period, how many battles actually were there? Well, there were skirmishes but, in terms of real battles, around about eight. The feud between the Houses of Lancaster and York did fester for three decades, but the idea that this was a period utterly ravaged by all-out war, well, that's just historical fiction. Yes, Towton was a truly brutal battle, but it was also unique. The other battles in the Wars of the Roses had much lower death tolls. And the idea that the country was totally consumed by war is wrong. Some historians argue that, out of the 32 years of the Wars of the Roses, the fighting only lasted for a total of 13 weeks. That would mean that there were months, years, even a whole decade, when England was at peace. The reason we talk of this era as the Wars of the Roses isn't an accident. It's the story told by the winning side, the history the Tudors wanted us to remember. It began with their account of the battle that brought the war to an end - the Battle of Bosworth. The Lancastrian Henry Tudor emerged as a victorious hero who had ended 30 years of bloodshed. He'd saved the nation from a villainous tyrant - the Yorkist King Richard III. 'The Tudors made sure Bosworth would be remembered as the ultimate clash 'between the forces of good and evil. 'Helped along by William Shakespeare, 'who relished their juicy tale, 'the battle has been so mythologized 'that it's hard to sort fact from fiction.' Historians used to think that the Battle of Bosworth took place about two miles away, over there, up on top of the hill, but over the last ten years, all sorts of interesting finds have been emerging from the fields immediately here. That's things like parts of 15th-century swords and badges and about 40 of these fantastically deadly-looking cannonballs. The battle must have taken place here. Now, despite this confusion about its location, a myth, a legend has grown up about exactly what happened that day. It's one of our great national stories and it goes something like this. 'King Richard III goes into battle wearing a crown, 'symbol of what's at stake that day.' Richard declares, "This day I will die as King or I will win." And even his enemies admit that he fights courageously. 'Richard gets within a sword's length of Henry Tudor, 'but the enemy forces overwhelm him. 'In desperation, he cries out, '"My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse!"' And then he's killed with a blow to the head and he loses his crown. 'After Henry's victory, 'Richard's crown is discovered in a hawthorn bush. 'And Henry is crowned with it on the battlefield.' Now, how much of this really happened? It's impossible to say. But the reason that this is the story we know is because it's the one Henry wanted us to remember. Henry wanted to make everyone aware of his decisive victory on the battlefield, but that was the easy part. In a nation divided, Henry's enemies still believed that he was a usurper, who had stolen the crown from the anointed King Richard III. Henry needed to legitimise his new reign, so when his first parliament met a few months after Bosworth, he made sure that it was his version of events that was recorded. One telling detail that Henry had written into the records of Parliament was that his reign had begun on the 21st of August 1485. Now, this is a bit odd because the Battle of Bosworth wasn't until the 22nd of August 1485. Was this a slip of the quill? No, it was deliberate. Henry was claiming that he'd already been king, even before the battle, so he wasn't a usurper stealing the crown, he was just taking what was rightfully his. He cunningly realised that his success didn't just lie in victory on the battlefield, it also lay in the way that the history of the Wars of the Roses would be written. Henry's next move was equally cunning. On the 18th of January 1486, Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. Henry would present his match as the start of a glorious new chapter in the nation's history. Henry realised that picking the right wife was important but that telling the right story about the marriage was even more so. The story that he wanted to tell was that this was one of the most important marriages in history. Here he was, a Lancastrian, marrying Elizabeth, a Yorkist, they were going to heal the nation. They had once been bitter rivals but now, they were loving bedfellows. But his cunning storytelling had another advantage too. It glossed over the very inconvenient fact that an awful lot of people thought that he had no right to the throne at all. Henry hoped that his marriage to Elizabeth would be seen as a fresh start. It would also divert attention away from his less than royal lineage. This is a genealogical roll, showing the kings of England, going right back into the mists of time. It goes back as far as Brutus, the mythical king 1,000 years before the Romans. You can't even see Brutus because he's still rolled up, we couldn't fit the whole thing onto the table. And as you come down this end, towards me, you move forwards into the period of the Wars of the Roses. These circles contain pictures of all the different kings, most of them called Edward. This one's called Rex Ted, which pleases me. As we get down here, we have some Henrys. Henry VI. Here is another Edward. Here is Richard III and then, the main red line peters out. Where is the next king, Henry VII? Well, he's been squished in at the side as the husband of Elizabeth of York. So, where has he popped up from? This black line tells us. It goes back to Henry's grandmother, Catherine, who was a proper Queen of England, but her second husband, Henry's grandfather, was this chap, Owen Tudor, a servitor in camera, that means a chamber servant.