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House Cole
Kingsguard

"I took an oath. As a knight of your Kingsguard. An oath of chastity. I've broken it. I've soiled my white cloak and it's the only thing I have to my fucking name! I thought if we were married, I might be able to restore it."
―Criston to Rhaenyra Targaryen[src]

Ser Criston Cole, also known as the Kingmaker,[5] is a knight of House Cole, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and Hand of the King under Aegon II Targaryen. He previously served as a member of the Kingsguard under Viserys I Targaryen and as Rhaenyra Targaryen's personal guard. Criston is one of the primary leaders of the Greens during the Dance of the Dragons.

Biography[]

Background[]

Criston is a member of House Cole, a minor house of the Dornish Marches in service to House Dondarrion. His father is the steward at Blackhaven. Criston is of Dornish descent.[1]

Criston had an adventurous youth, but his station was never high enough for a formal betrothal, so he could have married a commonborn girl if he had wished before he spoke his vows as a knight of the Kingsguard. He fought for a year as a footsoldier in border conflicts with Dorne. After taking part in the razing of two watchtowers along the Boneway, he was knighted by Ser Arlan Dondarrion.[2]

House of the Dragon: Season 1[]

Criston vs Daemon

Criston duels Daemon.

Criston competes in the Heir's Tournament. In his first joust he defeats a knight of House Tarly. He then defeats Ser Borros and Lord Boremund Baratheon. Criston next faces Prince Daemon Targaryen after several evenly matched tilts, Daemon is unhorsed by him, with Daemon then demanding a contest of arms on foot. Criston readies his flail as the prince draws his sword Dark Sister. In fierce combat, Criston breaks apart Daemon's shield, with Daemon swinging at his breastplate in return. With the prince eventually kicking Criston to the ground and as Daemon gloats, Criston rises to his feet and knocks him to the ground and forces the prince to yield. After his victory, Criston asks for the favor of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, who obliges throwing her laurel wreath down to him and wishes him luck.[1]

TRP Viserys and Criston Still

Criston is sworn in to the Kingsguard.

Six months after the tourney Ser Criston is named to the Kingsguard, at the insistence of Princess Rhaenyra, as he is the only candidate who has real combat experience. He later travels to Dragonstone with a detachment of men led by Ser Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, to force Prince Daemon to give up his occupation of the castle. When Daemon "accidentally" calls him "Ser Crispin", Criston retorts by reminding Daemon of how he defeated him at the Heir's Tournament. The situations escalates, and both sides draw their swords, but Princess Rhaenyra arrives and manages to convince Daemon to return the dragon egg without bloodshed.[2]

Three years later, King Viserys organizes a royal hunt in the Kingswood, in honor of his son Aegon's second nameday. Before departure, the king approaches Ser Criston, asking after the whereabouts of Rhaenyra, but Criston confesses he doesn't know where she is.[8]

SOHN Rhaenyra and Criston 2

Criston walks with Rhaenyra in the Kingswood.

Later, at the camp in the Kingswood, Criston sees Rhaenyra storm out of the tent and ride off on her horse. He swiftly mounts his own horse and chases after her. He manages to catch her, and she tells him that her father was trying to marry her off to Lord Jason Lannister. Criston jokingly asks if she wants him to kill Jason, which seems to amuse Rhaenyra. He tells her they should return to camp, but she suggests they take in the Kingswood. As they walk, Rhaenyra asks him if he was ever betrothed, to which he confesses that his station was never high enough for a formal betrothal, though he could have married a common-born girl had he wished. Rhaenyra tells him he's lucky to have a say in his own life, as despite being the princess, she feels she has no real power. Criston reminds her that it was only because of her that he became a Kingsguard - the highest honor any member of his house has ever known.[8]

That night, as he and Rhaenyra sit by a fire, Criston requests once again, that they return to camp, as her father will be worried, but she is still unwilling. Rhaenyra asks him if he thinks the people will ever truly accept her as their ruler, to which he replies that they will have no choice but to. At that moment, there is a rustling in the nearby bushes. Criston pulls out his sword, preparing to defend his princess from danger. After a tense silence, a boar charges out of the bushes, knocking Criston over, and attacking Rhaenyra. Criston recovers, and runs the boar through with his sword, saving his princess, who finishes the beast off by stabbing it multiple times in rage.[8]

As the two of them head back to camp with their kill, they are approached by another animal: A white hart. Criston slowly draws his sword, but Rhaenyra softly tells him not to. He obeys, and the stag turns and runs off. When they return to camp with the dead boar, they are greeted by incredulous stares from everyone gathered.[8]

KOTNS Boremund Rhaenyra and Criston Still

Criston with Rhaenyra at Storm's End.

Some time later, Ser Criston accompanies Princess Rhaenyra on a tour to find potential suitors for her hand. During an audience at Storm's End. Rhaenyra dismisses every suitor that approaches, and when a fight breaks out between Willem Blackwood and Jerrel Bracken, she tells Criston that they're leaving, and orders him to have their ship prepared to return to King's Landing, even though the tour was supposed to continue on to Bitterbridge. As they are leaving, they hear a yell, and turn to see that Willem has run Jerrel through with his sword. Criston tells Rhaenyra to look away.[6]

As they sail back to King's Landing, Rhaenyra asks Criston if she thinks her father will be angry, to which Criston sarcastically asks whether she refers to her refusal of all the suitors or her ending the tour early. Just then, they hear a dragon's cry overhead. Criston orders everyone to take cover, before Caraxes swoops down, brushing their ship, and dangerously rocking it. Criston immediately checks on the princess, and calls for the maesters, but Rhaenyra insists she's fine.[6]

KOTNS Rhaenyra and Criston Still

Rhaenyra seduces Criston.

That night, Criston bids Rhaenyra goodnight and stands guard outside her bedroom door. Several hours later, much to his bewilderment, Rhaenyra (who, unbeknownst to him, had slipped out of her room through a secret passage and joined Daemon for a night on the town) enters her bedroom again, now dressed as a commoner. As he checks to make sure she's all right, Rhaenyra, sexually charged from her exploits with Daemon, playfully grabs his helmet from him and holds it out of reach, despite his impatient requests that she return it. Eventually, she holds it out to him, and kisses him when he moves to take it, stunning him. Ignoring his halfhearted protests, Rhaenyra begins to slowly strip Criston of his armor. Criston hesitates, looking meaningfully at his white cloak as he takes it off, torn between his vow of chastity and his desire for (and reluctance to disobey) his princess. Eventually, he gives into temptation and starts kissing her back, and they share a night of ecstasy.[6]

The next morning, Criston, visibly uncomfortable after the previous night's encounter, enters Rhaenyra's chambers to give her a summons from Queen Alicent Hightower.[6]

That evening, Criston and several other members of the Kingsguard, escort Rhaenyra to her father's chambers. Criston is visibly nervous as he opens the door for her.[6]

Criston accompanies Rhaenyra, Viserys, and the new King's Hand, Lord Lyonel Strong, to Driftmark, to propose a marriage to Lord Corlys Velaryon between Rhaenyra and his son Ser Laenor Velaryon. On the way back, Criston, still guilt-ridden over breaking his Kingsguard vow, approaches Rhaenyra, and asks her to run away with him to Essos, where she could marry him - a marriage for love, not duty. As Rhaenyra has often talked about how much she hates her position, Criston believes this would benefit both of them: She would get to do as she wishes, and he could escape the shame of breaking his vow. After a few seconds of silence, however, Rhaenyra refuses, saying that she doesn't want to live in infamy, and must do her duty, no matter how much she may hate it. She does, however, inform him that she and Laenor have come to an understanding: After they perform their royal duty, they each pursue their own desires. Criston, distraught and angry, accuses her of wanting to make him her whore. He gave up his honor and soiled his white cloak - the only thing he has to his name - for Rhaenyra, and with her refusal, he now sees no way of restoring it.[9]

WLTW Alicent and Criston Still

Criston confesses to Alicent.

Upon returning to King's Landing, Criston is summoned by Queen Alicent, who questions him about a rumor she heard that Rhaenyra had been involved in a "breach of morals". Unbeknownst to him, the rumor she refers to is that Rhaenyra had sex with her uncle Daemon, but Criston believes that she has learned about his own sexual encounter with Rhaenyra. Seeing one last chance to restore his honor in death, Criston confesses his sin, only asking for a merciful death. Alicent, however, merely thanks him for his honesty and dismisses him.[9]

Criston 2nd Teaser

Criston beats Joffrey Lonmouth to death.

Throughout the welcoming feast for Rhaenyra and Laenor's marriage, Criston stands by, watching them dance together, visibly on edge. He is approached by Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, who subtly admits to being Laenor's paramour, and hints that he knows Criston's secret. Joffrey tells Criston that they should swear to guard the two of them and their secrets for the sake of them all. This perceived threat pushes Criston over the edge, and he starts pummeling Joffrey, to the shock and horror of everyone gathered. When Laenor tries to pull him off, Criston punches him before proceeding to beat Joffrey to death, caving in the entire left side of his face. After staring down at his victim for a few seconds, Criston silently rises and walks out, everyone too terrified to stop him.[9]

WLTW Criston Cole Still 3

Criston prepares to commit suicide.

Criston walks out to the godswood, removing his white cloak and his sword, and with his honor now beyond repair and nothing else to live for, prepares to take his own life with his dagger. However, his suicide attempt is interrupted by Queen Alicent who calls out to him.[9]

TPATQ Aemond, Aegon, Harwin, Criston, Lucerys & Jacaerys

Harwin attacks Criston.

A decade later, Criston is now a firm ally of Queen Alicent in return for her saving him at his lowest. While operating as a master-at-arms for Rhaenyra and Alicent's sons, Criston intentionally allows Aegon, Alicent's eldest son, to roughhouse Jacaerys Velaryon, Rhaenyra's eldest son. When Harwin Strong intervenes, Criston alludes to the rumor that Jacaerys and his brothers Lucerys and Joffrey are Harwin's bastard sons, which provokes Harwin to start beating him. The fallout over this leads Harwin to leave King's Landing.[10]

Alicent and Criston

Criston and Alicent at Laena Velaryon's funeral.

At the funeral of Laena Velaryon, Criston notices Lord Larys Strong staring at Alicent. While Alicent assures him that it is simply Larys's pride at becoming the new Lord of Harrenhal, Criston remains suspicious. He is later given the night's watch by Lord Commander Harrold Westerling.[11]

Criston is among the Kingsguard who separate Rhaenyra and Daemon's children from Prince Aemond, who has lost an eye in the fight. Everyone is summoned to the Hall of Nine by the king, who berates the Kingsguard for failing to prevent the fight. Criston tries to shift blame onto Jace, Luke, Baela, and Rhaena, but Viserys silences him. Alicent later orders Criston to take one of Luke's eyes as revenge, but he stays put. When she tries to do it herself, Criston follows her, but he is held back by Daemon.[11]

OT Aemond

Criston spars with Aemond.

Six years following these events, Criston has tutored Aemond into becoming a skilled warrior. The prince bests him in a sparring match, to which Criston says he will be winning tournaments in no time.[12]

TGC Criston & Harrold

Criston defies Harrold.

After the death of King Viserys, Criston attends the subsequent meeting of the Small Council. He moves behind Lord Lyman Beesbury when he protests the accession of Prince Aegon to the throne, and accidentally kills him in an attempt to seat him, puncturing his skull against his council totem. Ser Harrold then orders Criston to drop his sword and cloak, but Criston draws his sword, saying he will not suffer insults to the queen. Alicent orders him to sheath his sword, saying no insult was done. Shortly afterwards, Harrold resigns his post when he is ordered to go to Dragonstone and murder Rhaenyra's family, to the smug satisfaction of Criston.[3]

TGC Criston and Aemond Still

Criston and Aemond look for Aegon.

Later in the day, Criston is secretly ordered by Alicent to go into King's Landing, find Aegon, and bring him to her. Criston takes Aemond with him. They do not find him in the Street of Silk, which Aemond knows Aegon frequents. Afterwards, Aemond vents about how he should be king due to him putting in effort and doing his duty, to which Criston relates by saying that he has also had to toil for what others are freely given.[3]

The two happen to pick up the trail of Arryk and Erryk Cargyll, who have been secretly sent by Otto Hightower for the same purpose. They follow the two to the Grand Sept, where they find Aegon asleep underneath a shrine table. Criston stops Arryk from leaving with Aegon, and the two fight while Aemond grabs Aegon. Criston defeats Arryk, and then tells Aegon that "the queen awaits."[3]

Before Aegon's coronation, Criston is appointed Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by Alicent for his loyalty.[3]

TGC Kingmaker

Criston crowns Aegon.

In the Dragonpit, Criston crowns Aegon with the Conqueror's own crown, and hails him as the true heir to the Iron Throne. The coronation is interrupted when Rhaenys Targaryen bursts through the floor on her dragon Meleys. Alicent orders Criston to take Queen Helaena to safety, but Meleys only roars at them before she and Rhaenys fly away to warn Rhaenyra.[3]

House of the Dragon: Season 2[]

Criston has sex with Alicent Hightower when Helaena Targaryen rushes in, clutching Princess Jaehaera Targaryen, following her son's murder.[7]

At the following Small Council meeting, Criston is interrogated by Aegon II on where he was at the time of Jaehaerys' murder, to which he says he was abed. Later, he confronts Arryk Cargyll over his soiled white cloak, accusing him of not fully respecting the Kingsguard. He then commands Cargyll to infiltrate Dragonstone and slay Rhaenyra Targaryen, eventually resulting in his death. After Ser Otto Hightower is fired by Aegon II, Aegon names Criston Hand of the King as his "steel fist" for the wars to come.[4]

Legacy[]

Some details about Criston's actions during the Dance of the Dragons are misremembered by history. Viserys Targaryen's recollection of the Green coup includes Criston himself summoning the Small Council in the hour of the owl to inform them of the king's death, and arguing that a son comes before a daughter. It is also said that Criston slit Lyman Beesbury's throat with a dagger when he protested.[13]

Personality[]

Criston is noble in demeanor, and an unrivaled warrior. He is proud of his status as a knight of the Kingsguard.[14] Under his noble demeanor he is prone to sudden bursts of anger,[9][3] and sometimes stammers when he speaks.[9] He is vengeful and petty towards Rhaenyra for rejecting his marriage proposal.[10]

Criston regards his own honour highly, which is what drove him to propose an elopement with Rhaenyra and confessing his relationship to Alicent. Similarly, after killing Joffrey Lonmouth, Criston was prepared to take his own life out of shame for his actions.[9] After the assassination of Jaehaerys Targaryen, Criston confessed to Alicent that he felt there was no redemption for what he did, namely having sex with her while he could have prevented Blood and Cheese from taking the prince's life.[4]

Quotes[]

Spoken by Criston[]

Daemon: "Ser Crispin, wasn't it?"
Criston: "Ser Criston Cole, my prince."
Daemon: "Ah, yes, apologies. I couldn't recall."
Criston: "Perhaps my prince recalls when I knocked him off his horse."
— Daemon and Criston[src]
Criston: "Many in the realm would gladly trade positions with you, princess."
Rhaenyra: "Only because none of them has ever held my position. I may be the Princess of Dragonstone, but I am toothless."
Criston: "One day, not so long ago, you held enough power to write my name into the White Book. When your father named me to his Kingsguard, it was the highest honor any Cole had ever known. All that I have, I owe to you. Now I'd hardly call that toothless, princess."
— Criston and Rhaenyra[src]
"The Princess Rhaenyra is brazen and relentless. A spider who stings and sucks her prey dry. A spoiled cunt."
―Criston, on Rhaenyra[src]
"Every woman is an image of the Mother, to be spoken of with reverence."
―Criston Cole[src]
"I know what it is to toil for what others are freely given."
―Criston Cole[src]

Spoken about Criston[]

Rhaenyra: "What do you know about this Ser Criston Cole, Ser Harrold?"
Harrold: "I'm told Ser Criston is common-born, son of Lord Dondarrion's steward. But other than that, and the fact that he's just unhorsed both of the Baratheon lads, I really couldn't say."
— Rhaenyra and Harrold Westerling discuss Criston during the Heir's Tournament[src]
"You're a decent man with no taste for depravity."
―Aemond Targaryen[src]
"My new Hand will be a steel fist."
―Aegon II Targaryen[src]
Gunthor Darklyn: "Is there no honor left in this world, Cole? Sacking your queen’s own castles and putting her people to the sword? “Kingmaker.” You are not fit for the white cloak."
Criston Cole: "This is a better death than a traitor deserves. You should thank me for it."
Gunthor Darklyn: "Yours will come in kind."
— Lord Gunthor Darklyn and Criston Cole before the former's execution[src]

Behind the scenes[]

Criston Cole was revealed to be a recurring character in House of the Dragon on December 8, 2020. On April 15, 2021, HBO announced that Fabien Frankel had been cast in the role for the series. His character description for Season 1 reads as follows:

"Of Dornish descent, the common-born son of the steward to the Lord of Blackhaven. Cole has no claim to land or titles; all he has to his name is his honor and his preternatural skill with a sword."[15]

His character description for Season 2 reads as follows:

"The common-born son of the steward to the Lord of Blackhaven who has risen to be Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and Queen Alicent’s sworn protector."[16]

In the books[]

In Fire & Blood, Criston Cole was born the son of a steward to Lord Dondarrion of Blackhaven, in the Dornish Marches. He had coal black hair and pale green eyes: combined with his prowess as the greatest living warrior in Westeros, many ladies at court found him charming. The books make no mention that he had some Dornish ancestry, though it is theoretically possible: the Dornish Marches are the border area between the Stormlands, the Reach, and Dorne, and control of the region has frequently changed hands over the centuries.

There are two conflicting sources about the relationship between Ser Criston and Rhaenyra, though according to both they never slept together:

  • According to Septon Eustace, after Viserys decided to wed Rhaenyra to Laenor Velaryon, Criston slipped into the princess's bedchamber, confessed his love for her, and begged her to elope with him across the narrow sea; Rhaenyra refused, reminding Criston that she was the blood of the dragon, and meant for more than to live out her life as the wife of a common sellsword. Eustace further posed the question "if he could set aside his Kingsguard vows, why would marriage vows mean any more to him?"
  • According to Mushroom, it was Rhaenyra who went to Ser Criston, not the other way around. Twice she attempted to seduce him, using the "arts" she had learned from Daemon, but Criston was a man of honor and true to his vows, and would not be swayed.

However it happened, whether the princess spurned the knight or the other way around, since then the relationship between them went downhill. In a tournament held during the wedding celebrations of Laenor and Rhaenyra, Harwin Strong rode as Rhaenyra's champion. Ser Criston, furious that Rhaenyra bestowed her garter on Ser Harwin instead of him, took it out on the other competitors, resulting in the death of Joffrey Lonmouth.

Appearances[]

Forthcoming[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 1: "The Heirs of the Dragon" (2022).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 2: "The Rogue Prince" (2022).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 9: "The Green Council" (2022).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 House of the Dragon: Season 2, Episode 2: "Rhaenyra the Cruel" (2024).
  5. 5.0 5.1 House of the Dragon: Season 2, Episode 4: "The Red Dragon and the Gold" (2024).
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 4: "King of the Narrow Sea" (2022).
  7. 7.0 7.1 House of the Dragon: Season 2, Episode 1: "A Son for a Son" (2024).
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 3: "Second of His Name" (2022).
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 5: "We Light the Way" (2022).
  10. 10.0 10.1 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 6: "The Princess and the Queen" (2022).
  11. 11.0 11.1 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 7: "Driftmark" (2022).
  12. House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 8: "The Lord of the Tides" (2022).
  13. The Dance of Dragons (2016).
  14. Criston Cole. HBO. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  15. Unknown author (Unknown date). House of the Dragon S1 | Character Descriptions. Warner Bros. Discovery. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  16. Unknown author (Unknown date). House of the Dragon S2 | Character Descriptions. Warner Bros. Discovery. Retrieved June 5, 2024.
  17. House of the Dragon Season 2 | Episode 6 Preview | Max

Notes[]

  1. Criston Cole is stated to be in his 20s in the script for "The Heirs of the Dragon;" therefore, he was born between 83 and 92 AC.
  2. In "A Son for a Son," Daemon Targaryen and Otto Hightower mention that days have passed since Viserys Targaryen and Lucerys Velaryon's deaths. Unlike the first season, no major time jumps are expected; therefore, House of the Dragon: Season 2 takes place in 132 AC.
  3. Conjecture based on information from The World of Ice & Fire; may be subject to change.

External links[]

Preceded by Lord Commander of the Kingsguard
132 AC -
Incumbent
Preceded by Hand of the King
132 AC -
Incumbent


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