Who is Ser Criston Cole, the Kingsguard who seems so loyal to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen? As it’s set hundreds of years before the War of the Five Kings, House of the Dragon doesn’t fetaure any of our favourite Game of Thrones characters. Instead, as you might expect, the fantasy series focuses on the royal family, aka the Targaryens.
As we follow this incestuous brood of Valyrians, we’ve been introduced to a host of family members, friends, and servants who serve the Targaryens. Many of these figures will play a significant role in shaping the future of Westeros, but few play as significant a role as Ser Criston Cole.
But who is this knight, and what lies in store for him? Well, like a dutiful maester, we’ve compiled an article that breaks down everything you could possibly need to know about Cristen Cole. Warning spoilers for the House of the Dragon TV series ahead.
Ser Criston Cole’s Early life
Criston Cole was born in the Dornish Marches to a steward serving House Dondarrion. He rose to prominence during a grand tourney to celebrate the birth of King Viserys Targaryen’s first son (Viserys’ coronation in the books), where he defeated Prince Daemon Targaryen in a duel. After his victory, Criston asked for Rhaenyra’s favour, and she threw him a laurel of flowers.
After his success at the grand tourney, he was elevated to the King’s Guard and served as Rhaenyra’s sworn shield. Basically, he was a personal bodyguard for the queen-in-waiting and was a loyal servant. Criston protected Rhaenyra from a boar when she wandered into the King’s Wood and was there when she saw the White Hart.
Ser Criston Cole’s relationship with Rhaenyra
Sometime after the King’s Wood hunt, Criston was seduced by Rhaenyra, and the pair entered a sexual relationship. This is a pretty major deviation from the book, where the pair’s relationship is only ever the subject of rumour and gossip.
Following Rhaenyra’s betrothal to Laenor Velaryon, Criston wanted to continue their affair. The Kingsguard eventually offered to take the princess across the sea to the Free Cities, where they could be together.
Not wanting to give up the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra spurned Criston’s advances. Following this insult, Criston attacked Joffrey Lonmouth in a fit of jealousy during Rhaenyra’s engagement ball. Disgraced, he sought to take his own life but was saved by Queen Alicent Hightower.
Cole became a fierce critic of the princess he used to love, becoming Alicent’s sworn sword. So strong was his loyalty to the Queen that he tried to cut out the eye of Lucerys Velaryon when Alicent demanded revenge after her son Aemond was attacked.
After pledging his allegiance to Alicent, the bodyguard began championing Rhaenyra’s half-brother Aegon II’s claim to the Iron Throne.
Ser Criston Cole’s role in the Dance of Dragons
When Viserys I died, Criston, Otto Hightower, and Queen Alicent conspired to keep Rhaenyra (and her husband Daemon) off the Iron Throne. They kept the death of Viserys a close secret, and Criston himself crowned Aegon king, making him Aegon II at the Dragon Pit, surviving a run-in with the dragon Meleys.
This act split the kingdom in two. It was well known that Viserys had wanted Rhaenyra to inherit the throne, and as such, several lords threw their support behind the disinherited princess, while those who did not want to be ruled by a woman supported Aegon.
The war became known as the Dance of the Dragons, and the two factions waged a bitter war that effectively weakened the House of the Dragon severely. As you’ll see in House of the Dragon season 2, Criston — now known as the Kingmaker for his role in crowning Aegon — did well in the war. He was named Hand of the King and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, making him one of the most powerful men in the Seven Kingdoms.
Ser Criston Cole’s Death
Criston’s luck ran out during the dying days of the war. While campaigning in the Riverlands, his force was routed by Rhaenyra’s forces, and he was trapped.
With his army broken, Criston offered his own life in exchange for his men’s freedom, but he was denied. The Kingmaker was pelted with arrows and died in the mud of the Riverlands. After the slaughter, his head was cut from his body and used as a trophy.
If you love Game of Thrones, check out our guide to the best fantasy movies. We also have a breakdown of the House of the Dragon cast for you to enjoy. Or if you want to know more about the best House of the Dragon characters, we have guides to Larys Strong and The White Worm, two key figures in the civil war.
Our sister site Wargamer also has a guide to the best Game of Thrones board games if you want to play this deadly political game for yourself.