To Play the King (1993)

TV Mini-Series  |   |  Drama
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Francis Urquhart,the unscrupulous but cunning Conservative Prime Minister,has his survival threatened by a liberal monarch and an upcoming General Election.

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3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Series cast summary:
 Francis Urquhart (4 episodes, 1993)
 The King (4 episodes, 1993)
Kitty Aldridge ...
 Sarah Harding (4 episodes, 1993)
Colin Jeavons ...
 Tim Stamper (4 episodes, 1993)
Diane Fletcher ...
 Elizabeth Urquhart (4 episodes, 1993)
 David Mycroft (4 episodes, 1993)
 Chloe Carmichael (4 episodes, 1993)
Leonard Preston ...
 John Stroud (4 episodes, 1993)
Erika Hoffman ...
 The Lady (4 episodes, 1993)
Jack Fortune ...
 Ken Charterhouse (4 episodes, 1993)
 Corder (4 episodes, 1993)
 Mattie Storin (archive footage) (4 episodes, 1993)
 Princess Charlotte (3 episodes, 1993)
 Sir Bruce Bullerby (3 episodes, 1993)
 Andrew Harding (3 episodes, 1993)
Frederick Treves ...
 Lord Quillington (3 episodes, 1993)
Tom Beasley ...
 Young Prince / ... (3 episodes, 1993)
 Graham Gaunt (3 episodes, 1993)
Paula Tilbrook ...
 Speaker (3 episodes, 1993)
John Bird ...
 Bryan Brynford-Jones (2 episodes, 1993)
Kate Ricketts ...
 Current Affairs Lady (2 episodes, 1993)
Merelina Kendall ...
 Hilda Cordwainer (2 episodes, 1993)
Anthony Smee ...
 John Staines (2 episodes, 1993)
John Paul Connolly ...
 Sturdy Beggar (2 episodes, 1993)
Soo Drouet ...
 Big Woman (2 episodes, 1993)


Francis Urquhart,the unscrupulous but cunning Conservative Prime Minister,has his survival threatened by a liberal monarch and an upcoming General Election. Written by Dragan Antulov <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 October 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kongehuset  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(4 parts)

Sound Mix:


See  »

Did You Know?


Stamper confronts Francis about having a job in higher office after the election, like Home Secretary, but Francis rejects him. In the first House of Cards, Francis was promised a higher post like Home Secretary from Collingridge, but was rejected. See more »


Francis Urquhart: God save the King.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the credits Ian Richardson is shown in close up saying "God save the King" See more »


Referenced in Drama Connections: House of Cards (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

Some elements feel a bit familiar but it remains enjoyably cynical and droll in its writing
5 October 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Following his appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Francis Urquhart is rather plagued by guilt over the actions that got him there, while at the same time lacking a challenge to stimulate him in the way his political rivalries once did. This changes as the new King of England decides to throw his social conscience into the political ring, and as FU takes on a new 'slave' to inspire him and to tutor. The King's simplistic sentimentalizing of the plight of the poor leads FU to perhaps underestimate him, while he also remains unaware of the presence of a tape of his rooftop meeting that ended the previous series.

There is a certain meanness and cynicism in this BBC film that is perhaps lacking in the US version, and this second part of the House of Cards trilogy continues with that. The viewer remains drawn into FU's world and decisions in a way where we are confronted by his cold maneuvering, and this continues throughout the episodes. This time the opponent is the new King – a very thinly veiled version of Prince Charles; the reality of this power struggle is perhaps not totally convincing, but to be fair the previous episodes were fine to play up the cynicism in return for giving up a bit of realism. The plot plays out quite nicely, although it must be said that the show does benefit from only having 4 episodes and not the longer run that the US version has.

Outside of this, the series does rather repeat the model of the previous serial in that it places a young woman in FU's circle, sees an influential Afro-Caribbean woman playing a key role and also has a vulnerable male press role. It does have a certain familiarity to it, although mostly it does work on its own rights. The various plot twists and turns do not always convince; in particular the frequent bombings and the fate of some characters and devices go a little further than fits even the internal logic, but these are held together by the consistent spirit of meanness it has. A big part of that is Richardson's performance, which is attractive while also being repellant – much like his to-camera discussions which challenge the viewer to judge him. Equally good are Kitchen, Aldridge, King, and Farrrell – albeit that they have shadows of the previous series in their characters. Jeavons plays it well so that he builds from his position gradually and in a way that makes sense.

Generally the series works well because of how nicely scripted it is with a cynicism that applies across the political spectrum of all those involved. This is delivered with a certain drollness and a narrative that engages even if aspects of it feel repeated from the previous series.

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