- "But the greatest of these lords was Corlys Velaryon..."
- ―Viserys Targaryen
Corlys was married to Rhaenys Targaryen, the sister of Viserys I Targaryen, and at some point gave her a child, Laenor, who married his wife's niece Rhaenyra Targaryen. Corlys was the greatest of lords that swore allegiance to Rhaenyra Targaryen, as he commanded the largest fleet in the realm, during the Dance of the Dragons. During this conflict, his wife perished at the hands of their nephews, Aegon II Targaryen and Aemond Targaryen.
In the books
Corlys was named after Ser Corlys Velaryon, the first Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Corlys once sailed his Ice Wolf beyond the Wall but was unsuccessful in find a northerly route around Westeros. He then sailed aboard his Sea Snake on multiple voyages to Essos, accumulating wealth from visits to Qarth, Yi Ti, and Leng. Corlys was the first Westerosi to visit Nefer in N'Ghai and to navigate the Thousand Islands. During his last travel, Corlys filled the Sea Snake's hold with gold and bought twenty more ships at Qarth, loading them with spices, elephants, and silk. Corlys took his nickname from his famous ship, the expeditions of which are described in Maester Mathis's The Nine Voyages.
Corlys became head of House Velaryon after the death of his grandsire. Richer than Lords Lannister or Hightower through his expeditions, Corlys used his great wealth to construct a new seat, High Tide, where he stored his eastern treasures.
Lord Corlys and his fleets fought alongside Prince Daemon Targaryen during the War for the Stepstones. When Daemon declared himself the King of the Stepstones and the Narrow Sea, Corlys placed the crown on the new king's head.
The children of Corlys and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen both died in 120 AC, Laena Velaryon from childbed fever and Ser Laenor Velaryon from a quarrel with Ser Qarl Correy. Later in the same year Prince Daemon, Laena's widower, married Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Laenor's widow.
In 126 AC Corlys was struck with a sudden fever; the issue arose of who would succeed him as Lord of the Tides should he die. With his trueborn children dead by law the title would go to his grandson by Rhaenyra, Jacaerys Velaryon. However, Jacaerys would presumably ascend the Iron Throne after his mother and so Rhaenyra urged him to name Lucerys Velaryon as his heir. The Sea Snake also had six nephews and the eldest, Ser Vaemond Velaryon, protested that the lordship should pass to him on the grounds that Rhaenyra's sons were bastards sired by Ser Harwin Strong. The Velaryon protesters were dealt with by the Targaryens and Lord Corlys presumably recovered.
Lord Corlys Velaryon sat on the black council during the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons; he was the greatest lord to pledge his strength to the cause of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen, who was opposed by her half-brother, King Aegon II Targaryen. More than half of Rhaenyra's army was made up of men sworn to House Velaryon. Corlys's fleets also gave the blacks superiority at sea.
When Lord Bartimos Celtigar urged the princess to fly from Dragonstone to King’s Landing at once and reduce the city to ash and bone, Corlys demanded to know how that would serve them, telling him "we want to rule the city, not burn it to the ground".
The Sea Snake commanded the Velaryon fleet when it closed off the Gullet and sailed back and forth from Dragonstone and Driftmark, blocking all shipping entering or leaving Blackwater Bay and thereby choking off trade to and from King's Landing. Eventually, the Velaryon blockade was broken by the Battle in the Gullet and High Tide was sacked.
On Dragonstone, after receiving the news that his wife, Princess Rhaenys, had fallen at Rook's Rest trying to come to the aid of Lord Staunton, angry words were exchanged between the queen and Lord Velaryon. Corlys blamed Rhaenyra for his wife Rhaenys's death. He told Rhaenyra that it should have been her who died, that "Staunton sent to you, yet you left it to my wife to answer, and forbade your sons to join her!" All the castle knew that Princes Jacaerys and Joffrey Velaryon had been eager to fly with her to Rook's Rest with their own dragons.
In late 129 AC, Prince Jacaerys brought the Lord of the Tides back into the fold by naming him Hand of the Queen. Together the Hand and Jacaerys planned an assault upon King’s Landing. Not long after, one of the riderless dragons, Seasmoke, took onto his back a fifteen-year-old boy known as Addam of Hull. Lord Corlys went so far as to petition Queen Rhaenyra to remove the taint of bastardy from Addam and his brother, Alyn. The queen complied and Addam Velaryon became Corlys's heir to Driftmark.
After the queen took King's Landing, as Lord Ormund Hightower's host advanced slowly on King's Landing, with Prince Daeron scouting ahead on the Blue Queen, Lord Corlys suggested to Rhaenyra that the time had come to talk. He urged the queen to offer pardons. He proposed to let the Faith of the Seven take charge of Queen Alicent Hightower and Queen Helaena Targaryen, so that they might spend the rest of their lives in prayer and contemplation. Corlys suggested that Princess Jaehaera Targaryen, the daughter of Rhaenyra's rival, King Aegon II, be made his own ward, and in due time married to Rhaenyra's son, Prince Aegon the Younger, binding the two halves of House Targaryen together once again.
Rhaenyra demanded to know what of her half brothers, Aegon II, Aemond, and Daeron. Lord Corlys suggested they be spared and sent to the Wall. When Corlys mentioned the sacred vows of the Night's Watch, Rhaenyra questioned the vows of oathbreakers, stating that "Their vows did not trouble them when they took my throne." Her husband, Prince Daemon, echoed the queen's misgiving and suggested a hard line, but the queen decided to steer a middle course.
After the Two Betrayers switched sides, Lord Corlys was the only person on the black council to speak in defense of the dragonseed. He remarked that Ser Addam and his brother Alyn were "true heirs" and worthy of Driftmark and that Nettles had fought valiantly in the Battle in the Gullet. The Hand's impassioned protests were in vain as by this time the queen had been betrayed so often, by so many, that she was quick to believe the worst of any man. Queen Rhaenyra commanded Ser Luthor Largent to arrest Addam in the Dragonpit. Addam, who had been forewarned, managed to make his escape by flying away with Seasmoke. When the balked and angry Luthor returned from the Dragonpit, he accused Corlys of treachery. Corlys did not deny it. Bound and beaten, but still silent, he was taken down into the Red Keep's dungeons and thrown into a black cell to await trial and execution. This action lost Rhaenyra her fleet. When it became known that Lord Corlys was languishing in a dungeon under the Red Keep, the army that had sailed from Dragonstone to seize the Iron Throne began to abandon Rhaenyra's cause by the hundreds. The ones that remained could not be trusted.
Once Aegon II Targaryen returned to King's Landing after the death of Rhaenyra, Lord Corlys was released and pardoned, allowing him to serve Aegon on his small council. Corlys did not simply betray the remaining members of the Blacks who were still in the field: originally Aegon II considered executing Aegon III, who was (for all anyone knew) Rhaenyra's last remaining child. But Aegon II needed the wealth of House Velaryon and to ensure they wouldn't continue fighting him, so in return Corlys was able to negotiate the concessions that he would have a seat on the small council, that Aegon III would be spared, and even that Aegon III would be betrothed to Aegon II's last remaining child, Princess Jaehaera.
When the approach of Lord Cregan Stark's army towards the capital became known, Corlys advised Aegon to take the black. The king refused, however, and was mysteriously poisoned soon after.
Lord Corlys was arrested by Lord Stark in what became known as the Hour of the Wolf. He was later freed thanks to an edict of King Aegon III Targaryen that Baela and Rhaena Targaryen persuaded him to issue. Black Aly Blackwood agreed to marry Lord Stark if he honored the edict, which he did. Thus Corlys was freed and served as one of the regents of young Aegon III.
Corlys was regarded as the most powerful of the regents of the young king until his death of old age in 132 AC, at the age of seventy-nine. His body lay in state beneath the Iron Throne for a week.