House of Cards (trilogy)

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House of Cards is a trilogy of British political dramas, detailing the rise - and fall - of a scheming, Machiavellian British politican, Francis Urquhart, from a lowly Cabinet position to the office of Prime Minister. It was broadast by the BBC in 1990 and based on the novel by Michael Dobbs, a former Chief of Staff at the UK Conservative Party headquarters.

Francis Urquhart[edit]


  • I do enjoy these visits to the palace. A glass of sherry, a little verbal fencing, and a bracing dose of hatred and contempt. Most invigorating. And today, there's going to be a little extra treat. No, I won't spoil it. Wait and see.

House of Cards (1990)[edit]

Episode 1[edit]

[Urquhart contemplates a framed picture of Margaret Thatcher.]
Urquhart: Nothing lasts forever. Even the longest, the most glittering reign must come to an end someday.

Urquhart: Who could replace her? Plenty of contenders. Old warriors, young pretenders. Lord Billsborough, say — party chairman, too old and too familar, tainted by a thousand shabby deals. Michael Samuels — too young and too clever. Patrick Woolton — bit of a lout, bit of a bully-boy. Yes, it could well be Woolton. Henry Collingridge — the people's favorite, a well-meaning fool, no background and no bottom. What, me? Oh, no no no. I'm the Chief Whip, merely a functionary. I keep the troops in line. I put a bit of stick around. I make them jump. And I shall, of course, give my absolute loyalty to whoever emerges as my leader.

[Urquhart meets with the Prime Minister, Henry Collingridge, anticipating his promotion to the cabinet in a reshuffle.]
Collingridge: Now, I've had a careful look at this memorandum of yours. You're proposing a very radical change. I'd like you to tell me why.
Urquhart: Well—
Collingridge: Just in general terms.
Urquhart: All right. We have been in power longer than any party since the war. It's a new kind of challenge. We need to show that we are not stagnating, that we are capable of self-renewal. Your own succession to the leadership, Prime Minister, is a very good example of the sort of thing I mean.
Collingridge: And now you want to see a great deal more of that sort of thing.
Urquhart: Well, I think we've had a pretty clear indication from the country that people are looking for some kind of change.
Collingridge: You think so.
[Urquhart nods.]
Collingridge: The—the new names you put forward here, none of them could be described as being on the liberal wing of the party. Wouldn't you agree, Francis?
Urquhart: No one from the radical right, either. They're all good, sound men, Prime Minister.
Collingridge: Good sound men from the shires, mm-hmm. Guaranteed to do that they're told?
Urquhart: I'd rather say that they're all men who have been bred and educated in the tradition of public service, and have proved their reliability over long years.
Collingridge: Well, yes. That is another way of putting it. And I see you're offering your own services in high office.
Urquhart: You will remember, Prime Minister, that some months ago, we talked about the possibility that after the election, there might be a senior ministerial post.
Collingridge: Yes, yes, I do remember that. Things do change so very quickly in politics, don't they, Francis? I'm very grateful, indeed, for your suggestions, but I have to tell you now that we disagree with you entirely. Do you remember Macmillan? The Night of the Long Knives? He sacked a third of his cabinet and destroyed his government in the process. He was out within the year, Francis. Now, here is what I have in mind.
[Collingridge hands Urquhart a paper with a list of prospective cabinet members.]
Collingridge: As you see, no cabinet changes at all. I'm sure you'll be seeing what it is, a sign of strength and sureness of purpose.
[Urquhart is visibly flustered.]
Urquhart: Well, I hope the parliamentary party will see it in that way.
Collingridge: I rather count on you to press it home to them, Francis, as Chief Whip. I do assume I have your full support.
Urquhart: Of course, Prime Minister. That goes without saying.
Collingridge: Good. I want you to know that I still regard you as a candidate for the highest office. But, you are also the strongest and most deeply respected Chief Whip this party has had — I think I may say — since the war. It's such a slender majority in the House. A good Chief Whip is more important to me than a good Home Secretary.
[Unbeknownst to Collingridge, Urquhart is gripping his knuckles in rage.]
Urquhart: You are too kind, Prime Minister. Much too kind.

Episode 3[edit]

Urquhart: Not feeling guilty, I hope. If you have pangs of pity, crush them now. Grind them under your heel like old cigar butts. I've done the country a favor. [Collingridge] didn't have the brain or the heart or the stomach to rule a country like Great Britain. A nice enough man, but there was no bottom to him. His deepest need was that people should like him. An admirable trait, that, in a spaniel or a whore — not, I think, in a Prime Minister, hmm? And we've done him a favor, too, if he did but know it. He was in a trap and screaming from the moment he took office. We simply put the poor bastard out of his agony. After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well. So let's not indulge ourselves in any squeamishness.

To Play The King (1993)[edit]

Episode 1[edit]


Urquhart:Remember that frightfully nice man who talked a lot about the classless society? He had to go, of course, in the end. Everything changes.

Urquhart:A new king. A new age, of hope and peace and spiritual growth, et cetera. And I'm still here for my sins.

Episode 3[edit]

[Urquhart and Stamper are having a meeting with Sir Bruce Bullerby, the editor of a tabloid newspaper critical of Urquhart's government.]
Bullerby: Ah, I see you've been reading the paper. No hard feelings, I hope. These things need airing.
Urquhart: Well, of course they do. Quite right. Do sit down. Would I be right in thinking you're on some sort of morality crusade, Bruce?
Bullerby: In a sense, yes. Opening a debate about morality in public and private life — why not?
Urquhart: Is everyone's private life a legitimate subject for scrutiny?
Bullerby: Well, if it's all right for the Royals, why not for the rest of us?
Urquhart: Who could argue with that? How are you getting along with the Princess?
Bullerby: Very well, surprisingly enough.
Urquhart: Yes, we thought so too. Stamper has some photographs he would like to show you. The technical quality's rather poor in some of them.
[Stamper hands Bullerby an envelope, which contains photographs of Bullerby in a sexual tryst with Princess Charlotte.]
Urquhart: Other way up, I think, Bruce. That's it. There's a video, too. I was very doubtful of the morality of infringing your privacy, Bruce, but after what you've just said...
[Bullerby sits and stews as he looks at the photos.]
Bullerby: How much for the prints and the negatives?
Urquhart: Bruce, please. A little loyalty from our friends is all we ask. Just a-a helping hand in these rather trying times.
[Bullerby feigns joviality.]
Bullerby: Oh we-e-e-ell, of course! We weren't actually going to put the boot in! No, not in a serious way! These are tough times for all of us.
Urquhart: We gather the Princess' memoirs have been quite revealing.
Bullerby: Bloody dynamite — and not just about her, not just about the 'younger generation', if you follow me. Staggering stuff. They're all bloody at it! Always have been!
Urquhart: Print them.
[Bullerby is flustered.]
Bullerby: I-I-I can't do that. I made a solemn promise, not-not a word while the Princess is still alive. Francis, it would destroy her — and not just her. She doesn't deserve that.
[Urquhart holds up the photos.]
Urquhart: No, perhaps you're right. We'll just have to make do with these, now won't we?
[Bullerby is defeated.]
Bullerby: All right, you bugger. Ding-dong, ding-dong... And as for you, Stamper
Stamper: What?
[Bullerby leaves Urquhart's office.]

[Urquhart has a meeting with the King in the garden of his royal retreat]
King: How much does Bullerby have? What could he publish?
Urquhart: Everything the princess was able to tell him. A lot of it's hearsay, of course. But I'd say there's enough to bring down the Monarchy for good.
King: Damn you man, is that what you want?
Urquhart: No, sir. It is not what I want. And I think – I'm sure, in fact – I could persuade him to suppress the more sensitive items.
King: The price being my silence and complicity, I suppose.
Urquhart: You might see it in those terms.
[Pause]
King: All right, do your worst.
Urquhart: I beg your pardon, sir?
King: I don't think the people will want any more muckraking. I think the whole nation is sick to death of negative campaigning and dirty tricks. They want to be given hope, they want something positive. I want to show them that there is an alternative, and I shall.
Urquhart: You have given your word, sir.
King: I have given my word not to make any political speeches, and I shan't. But I shall make it very clear that I oppose you bitterly and everything you stand for. You think you are an honourable man. I don't think that anymore. I think you and your party are intellectually and morally bankrupt. It's time for you to go, and you know it.
Urquhart: I shall like to formally request a dissolution of Parliament in preparation for a general election.
King: Granted, Minister.
Urquhart: Why are you doing this? What could possibly be in it for you?
[Pause]
King: You really don't understand, do you? I do believe you're frightened of me, Mr. Urquhart.
Urquhart: You believe that if it gives you any comfort, sir.

Episode 4[edit]

[Urquhart is being interviewed on a BBC news programme.]
BBC Presenter: Images of Urquhart's Britain, the Newham gas explosion. Doesn't that rather sum things up, Prime Minister? A decaying and neglected tower block in the inner city crumbles and disintegrates, unable to withstand the blast, while a laissez-faire government stands idly by?
Urquhart: Absolute nonsense.
BBC Presenter: Is it? The King's doing what he can to help while the Prime Minister looks on, unmoved. Every picture tells a story. Isn't this a symbol of everything that is wrong with society today?
Urquhart: You might think that. You might very well think that. Something is very wrong.
BBC Presenter: So you're admitting responsibility then, are you? In that case, don't you think it's time that you stepped down—
Urquhart: I admit nothing of the kind. The unfortunate victims of the Newham disaster died as a result of reckless greed and irresponsibility. A fourth-floor tenant who was disinclined to pay his gas bill decided to bypass the meter and tap directly into the main. He made a botch of it, and succeeded in killing or maiming seventy-two of his friends and neighbors. End of story.
BBC Presenter: You don't think that the deep divisions in society are even partly to blame? You're quite happy with the way things are?
Urquhart: Indeed, I am not. There is a deep division in society today, between those who want to work and enjoy the fruits of their labours and abide by and uphold the laws of the land, and an increasing number of what it has become fashionable to call the disaffected, the disadvantaged, the differently-motivated — what we used to call lazy people, dishonest people, people who don't want to take responsibility for their actions or their lives.
BBC Presenter: So you don't feel inclined to do anything about the situation?
Urquhart: On the contrary. I decided that the time has come to take quite drastic action. We're going to bring back National Service as the first step in a large-scale programme of public works. We're going to get our young people — all our young people — off their backsides. We're going to put a large investment into Britain's future. And we're damned well going to get our money's worth.
BBC Presenter: But what you're talking about is universal conscription in peacetime.
Urquhart: Listen. It can't be right that young people in the very flower and prime of youth should spend half the day loafing in bed, and the rest selling each other drugs and stealing from each other. Let's give our young people a chance to learn self-discipline again, a chance to feel proud of themselves and walk tall!
BBC Presenter: But this is a complete—
Urquhart: I have a great belief in Britain, you know. We are not a nation of social workers, or clients of social workers. We are not, please God, a nation of deserving cases. We are a fierce, proud nation, and we are still, God willing, a nation to be reckoned with!

[Urquhart meets with the King of England at Buckingham Palace.]
King: Congratulations, Mr. Urquhart.
Urquhart: Thank you, sir. I was expecting you might want to dispense with such niceties.
King: Oh, by all means. I'm heartily sorry you're still Prime Minister, but I'm not in the least downhearted. The tide has turned against you, and I'm very glad to have played my part in that. I think you'll be out before the end of the year, Mr. Urquhart, and Britain will be all the better for it.
Urquhart: Your opinions, sir, are no longer of any interest to anyone but yourself. You have risked everything in opposing me, and you have lost. I have come here to demand your abdication from the throne.
[Pause.]
King: The people won't back you, Urquhart.
Urquhart: I shan't need to consult them again, sir. They have re-elected me. And I cannot, and I will not, tolerate a monarch who is bitterly and publicly opposed to me. You must abdicate, sir. It is the only honourable course. You must see that.
King: Oh, I don't think you are in any position to speak of honourable courses. I'll continue to oppose you openly and publicly while I remain on the throne. And if I am forced to relinquish the throne, then I shall continue to fight you as a commoner. I shall welcome the opportunity, and I shall take very keen pleasure in defeating you in the polls.
Urquhart: I wouldn't bet on it, sir. I'm afraid you won't be of much interest as a commoner. I doubt if anyone will be particularly interested in what you have to say. You have no constituency, you see. No power base. You represent nothing but one talentless, discredited family. And very soon, you won't represent even that. You will represent nothing. You will mean nothing. You will be nothing.
[Pause.]
King: Well, we'll see. I spent my whole life preparing to be King.
Urquhart: I feel no compunction, sir. You tried to destroy me.
King: No, I didn't want to destroy you, man. You wanted to destroy the Monarchy.
Urquhart: Not at all, sir. Don't you understand what I'm telling you? I have no wish to. It is you I want to destroy, not the Monarchy. My family came south with James I. We were defenders of the English throne before your family was ever heard of. It is to preserve the ideal of a constitutional monarchy that I now demand your abdication.
[Long pause.]
King: You're a monster, Urquhart.
Urquhart: You might very well think that, sir. But your opinion doesn't count for very much now, does it? Good day, sir.

Urquhart: Well, what would you have? Britain must be governed, and you know who will do it best. If you will the end, you must will the means. These things happen all over the world. Believe me, it's all for the best. What's the matter? You do trust me, don't you? Of course you do.

The Final Cut (1995)[edit]

Episode 1[edit]

[Urquhart is attending the fictional funeral of Margaret Thatcher]
Urquhart: What a rigmarole – a full state funeral now. The woman simply hung around too long. Better a quick exit than clinging to the wreckage of a lost career. Some people seem to lack all sense of timing.

Episode 2[edit]

[Urquhart and his wife are watching architects chart the grounds of Parliment for a memorial to Margaret Thatcher]
Elizabeth: The Margaret Thatcher Memorial. Is there really no way of preventing it?
Urquhart: It would seem not. It's all been paid for out of the Foundation. And the site was earmarked fifteen years ago, apparently. For a time, there seemed some possibility of putting it up in Grantham. Where no one would have to look at it.
Elizabeth: Except the unfortunate inhabitants. Where is Grantham, anyway?
Urquhart: No one seems quite sure.
Elizabeth: Couldn't the Arts Council do something about it?
Urquhart: You forget, my dear. We abolished the Arts Council a year ago.
Elizabeth: Of course. Department of National Heritage?
Urquhart: No, not their pidgeon, apparently. It seems the best we can hope for is to keep the scale of that thing down and perhaps plan a somewhat larger memorial of oneself to stand nearby.

Urquhart: That was a rather louche performance you have in the House this afternoon.
Booza-Pitt: Yeah, well I suppose it was a bit under the pier. The chaps seemed to like it though. Actually, I–I have had a bit of a shock since then. Rather, an unpleasant phone call.
Urquhart: Newspapers?
Booza-Pitt: Not yet. Look, Francis, I'm awfully sorry, but I've got myself in a spot of bother.
Urquhart: What is it this time, sex or money?
Booza-Pitt: A bit of both, I'm afraid.
Urquhart: Let's have it, then.
Booza-Pitt: Well, the chairman of my local party is going to divorce his wife for adultery, citing me.
Urquhart: Really? If I may say so, that is rather small beer for you. You might find yourself with a slight re-selection problem, of course.
Booza-Pitt: He says he's going to resign from the party and take his story to the tabloids. There are other details. Nothing too dreadful. It's a bit embarrassing, though.
[Urquhart gives him a look, expecting details]
Booza-Pitt: Oh... Uniforms and so on? Doctors and nurses, awfully harmless. There are photographs.
Urquhart: Geoffrey, Geoffrey...
Booza-Pitt: You know me.
Urquhart: Anything else?
Booza-Pitt: Well, he says he's going to say that I tipped off his wife about some shares for Mendox Chemicals.
[Urquhart demeanour suddenly changes]
Urquhart: Ahead of the takeover?
Booza-Pitt: Well yeah, obviously. Otherwise, there wouldn't be much point in buying them, would there? You'd think he'd be grateful, wouldn't you?
[Long pause]
Booza-Pitt: Francis?
[Urquhart is enraged]
Urquhart: I want you to write me a letter of resignation setting out the circumstances in full and I want it here on my desk within the hour.
Booza-Pitt: Right. I thought you might possibly—
[Urquhart stares at him]
Booza-Pitt: Right. Please, Francis, couldn't you just—
[Urquhart stares at him]
Booza-Pitt: No, of course, you're right. I–I see that. Please, Francis, I couldn't bear it out there in the cold!
Urquhart: Sign the better but don't date it. What's this wretched man's name?
Booza-Pitt: Tennant. Richard Porthouse Tennant. Francis, I need hardly say—
Urquhart: Sit down and shut up.
[Booza-Pitt sits down while Urquhart contacts his secretary on the phone]
Urquhart: Get me a Richard Tennant. Local chairman, Hampshire Southeast.
Booza-Pitt: Francis—
Urquhart: You really are utterly contemptable, aren't you?
Booza-Pitt: Well I wouldn't actually go that far.
Urquhart: No background, no bottom, absolutely no informing principle but the will to survive, just a plump little bag of squirming appetites!
Booza-Pitt: Francis, I do think that's a wee bit harsh—
Urquhart: Shut up. And you thought you could endanger my government with impunity just because I sometimes found your company amusing, just because I sometimes smiled at your little jokes?
Booza-Pitt: I've been an utter fool. I am an utter fool. But you know, Francis, I've always been for you. You've been my guiding light, my hero, right from way back. Look into your heart, Francis! You know I'd do anything for you!
[The phone buzzes]
Urquhart: Yes!
Secretary: Mr. Tennant, sir.
Urquhart: Good. Put him on.
[Urquhart takes the phone]
Urquhart: Mr. Tennant, Francis Urquhart. Sorry to spring this on you, but I wanted a confidential word. You know already, perhaps, that you've been put up for an honor for your public and political services... No... Well now, look here. I think you deserve something a little better. A knighthood, in fact... Yes... Well, special people don't always realize quite how special they are... There's a waiting list, of course. About eighteen months. And all of must remain utterly confidential till then, you do understand that... Good... But I shall be inviting you and Lady Tennant to Downing Street to dinner very soon... Yes... Now, one last thing. I'm sorry to have to ask you this, but as this will be carrying my personal recommendation, the Scrutiny Committee isn't likely to come across anything embarrassing in any way? Sadly, we've had one or two cases where honors have had to be withdrawn. Sign of the times, I'm afraid... Excellent... Goodbye then, and my best regards to Lady Tennant. We'll be seeing you both very soon... Yes... Bye-bye.
Booza-Pitt: Francis, what can I say?
Urquhart: I still want that letter, Geoffrey. I decide who comes and goes from my Cabinet and when. Not the tabloids, and certainly not some dreary constituency chairman. All right, Geoffrey, off you go.
[Booza-Pitt gets up]
Booza-Pitt: Thank you, Francis. With all my heart.
Urquhart: Yes, yes, yes.
[Booza-Pitt is about to leave the office.]
Urquhart: Oh, and Geoffrey: that was your knighthood I bought him off with.

Cast[edit]