Criston Cole, by Naomimakesart ©
|In 82 AC, Blackhaven
|In 130 AC, south of the Gods Eye
|Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (rumored)
|House of the Dragon: Season 1 | 2
Criston Cole was a knight from House Cole who rose to become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard for Viserys I Targaryen. His relationship with Viserys's daughter, Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, was first friendly and then adversarial.
Criston convinced Viserys's son, Prince Aegon the Elder, to claim the rule of the Seven Kingdoms as his father lay dead. This led to the Dance of the Dragons, a civil war between Aegon II and his elder half-sister, Rhaenyra, whom Viserys had long groomed as his successor. For this the knight became known as Criston the Kingmaker. Criston also served as Hand of the King for Aegon II during part of the war.
Appearance and Character
Criston had coal black hair and pale green eyes. Many ladies described him as charming.
In 104 AC, Criston won a melee at the tourney at Maidenpool to celebrate the ascension of King Viserys I Targaryen to the Iron Throne, drawing the attention of the royal court by knocking Dark Sister from the hands of Prince Daemon Targaryen with his morningstar. He gave the victor's laurel to the seven-year-old Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, whose favor he wore while unhorsing Daemon in the joust, as well as the twins Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk Cargyll of the Kingsguard, before being unhorsed by Lord Lymond Mallister. Thereafter, King Viserys indulged Rhaenyra by naming Criston her personal sworn shield. In 105 AC, the twenty-three-year-old Criston became a member of the Kingsguard, taking the place of the legendary Ser Ryam Redwyne.
Criston wore Rhaenyra's favor in a tournament in 111 AC where he unhorsed Ser Gwayne Hightower, younger brother and champion to King Viserys's second wife and queen, Alicent Hightower. Half a year later, Daemon departed the capital after quarreling with his royal brother. According to Mushroom, Daemon had given explicit lessons to Rhaenyra so that she could seduce the noble Criston. When Rhaenyra finally approached the knight, however, the horrified Criston rejected the girl.
In 113 AC, King Viserys I Targaryen arranged for his reluctant daughter Rhaenyra, Princess of Dragonstone, to wed Ser Laenor Velaryon. According to Septon Eustace, Criston slipped into Rhaenyra's bedchamber to confess his love, offering to abscond with her to one of the Free Cities where he would pledge his sword to some merchant prince. Rhaenyra refused him, however, saying a Targaryen was meant to be more than the wife of a sellsword, and that if he could forget his Kingsguard vows, he could forget marriage vows. According to Mushroom, however, it was Rhaenyra who unsuccessfully attempted to seduce Criston in White Sword Tower. The spurned princess took solace in Ser Harwin Strong, called Breakbones. Whatever the way of it, Criston went from being her staunchest defender to her bitterest foe, and Rhaenyra soon left for Driftmark with Harwin as her new sworn shield.
In 114 AC, Ser Criston attended the wedding of Rhaenyra to Laenor, which included seven days of feasting and jousting. He fought with Queen Alicent Hightower's token, and during a melee left Harwin with a broken collarbone and shattered elbow, prompting Mushroom to call him "Brokenbones" thereafter. Criston's morningstar also cracked the helm of Laenor's favorite, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, which the Knight of Kisses died from six days later. While many were angered at Criston for this, including King Viserys, Queen Alicent did not share their displeasure, and asked that he be made her personal sworn shield. Criston became a staunch supporter of Alicent and a member of the greens ever after.
The Dance of the Dragons
When King Viserys I Targaryen died in 129 AC, Criston and Queen Alicent Hightower assembled the small council to discuss the succession, keeping the king's death a secret from the public. Criston objected to Rhaenyra Targaryen, Princess of Dragonstone, or her husband, Prince Daemon Targaryen, holding power, and he also repeated the rumor that Rhaenyra's children from Ser Laenor Velaryon were bastards. Instead of Rhaenrya, the greens wanted to crown her younger half-brother, Prince Aegon the Elder. According to Septon Eustace, Criston cut the throat of Lord Lyman Beesbury, the only councilor to support Rhaenyra, while Mushroom claims that Criston instead flung Lyman to his death from a window; neither Eustace or Mushroom was present at the meeting, however.
Any blacks who remained at court were taken by Criston into custody. When Criston went to Aegon to convince the prince to ascend the Iron Throne, Mushroom wrote that Criston found him with a young girl in Flea Bottom, while Eustace claimed Aegon was in a more respectable situation with the daughter of a trader. According to the septon, Criston told the prince that he and his siblings would be killed by Rhaenyra if he did not claim the Iron Throne.
Hand of the King
Rhaenyra Targaryen, who was at Dragonstone at the time of Aegon II Targaryen's coronation, refused to support her half-brother, beginning the great armed conflict which engulfed the Seven Kingdoms and became known as the Dance of the Dragons. Many of the lords of the Seven Kingdoms were aware of Viserys I Targaryen's wish to have Rhaenyra succeed him as House Targaryen's first ruling queen, and threw their support behind the princess. As the blacks gathered their forces and allies, Aegon II became frustrated with Ser Otto Hightower, his grandfather and Hand of the King, and instead awarded the office to Criston.
In response to Blood and Cheese having killed young Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen, the new Hand ordered a reluctant Ser Arryk Cargyll of the Kingsguard to infiltrate Dragonstone in the guise of his twin, Ser Erryk Cargyll, who was supporting Rhaenyra on the island. Grand Maester Munkun believed that Criston wanted Arryk to assassinate Rhaenyra herself, while Mushroom wrote that Arryk was supposed to kill Rhaenyra's sons, Jacaerys Velaryon and Joffrey Velaryon. Criston's scheme faltered when Arryk and Erryk came face to face, however, and the twins killed each other in combat.
Criston marched on Rosby and Stokeworth and forced their levies to join his host of greens, and he then led the sack of Duskendale. The Kingmaker was prepared for the arrival of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen and Meleys at the Battle at Rook's Rest, having planned for King Aegon II Targaryen on Sunfyre and Prince Aemond Targaryen on Vhagar to wait in ambush. Rhaenys and Meleys were killed in the fighting, and Aegon was left crippled as well. Aemond and Criston killed the garrison of Rook's Rest and carried the head of Lord Staunton back to King's Landing. When Aemond became Protector of the Realm and Prince Regent because of Aegon's injuries, Criston remained Hand.
Prince Aemond Targaryen and Criston desired to retake Harrenhal from Prince Daemon Targaryen, the husband of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen, who had gathered an army of rivermen to the great castle. While Lord Jason Lannister marched toward the Gods Eye with a host of westermen in support of King Aegon II Targaryen, Criston departed King's Landing with another four thousand greens and Aemond on Vhagar. Jason was killed in the Battle at the Red Fork, however, and his westermen struggled on under Lord Humfrey Lefford.
After defeating Ser Oswald Wode and Lords Darry and Roote by the shores of the Gods Eye, Criston's host found Harrenhal to have been abandoned by the blacks when they finally arrived at the castle. Aemond saw it as a great victory, but he was outraged upon learning that Daemon had flown away on Caraxes to aid Rhaenyra with the fall of King's Landing. Meanwhile, Humfrey's Lannister host was shattered in the Battle by the Lakeshore by the rivermen and the Winter Wolves. In response to the blacks' victories, Criston urged Aemond to retreat south and join the host of greens led by Lord Ormund Hightower and Prince Daeron Targaryen. Aemond refused, however, and decided to instead burn the riverlands with Vhagar's dragonflame.
Criston marched south from Harrenhal with his remaining host of thirty-six-hundred greens to meet the Hightower host, traveling along the western shore of the Gods Eye. The blacks destroyed villages and befouled waters on his line of march, denying supplies to the greens. Rivermen such as young Benjicot Blackwood, Lord of Raventree, harried Criston's host as they marched south, and a dozen greens were killed at Crossed Elms in an ambush planned by Black Trombo.
While marching from the Gods Eye to the Blackwater Rush, Criston's surviving host was met at a ridge by an army of thousands of blacks led by Ser Garibald Grey, Ser Pate of Longleaf, and Roderick Dustin, Lord of Barrowton. Criston offered to yield if the blacks would spare the lives of his men, but he was refused. When Criston then challenged all three of his counterparts, Pate had Robb Rivers and his archers strike down the Kingmaker with three arrows. Hundreds of Criston's men were then killed by the rivermen and Winter Wolves in the ensuing Butcher's Ball in 130 AC. Garibald and Pate brought Criston's head on a spear to the First Battle of Tumbleton.
Criston was eventually succeeded as Hand of the King by Lord Cregan Stark, who served briefly, and as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard by Ser Willis Fell, with both men serving Aegon III Targaryen.
Criston's motives in supporting Aegon II Targaryen in the Dance of the Dragons are unclear. Some say that he acted from ambition as Aegon was more controllable than his willful half-sister, Rhaenyra Targaryen, and that Rhaenyra's spurning of him added a personal dimension to the conflict. Others allow Criston nobler motives and claim he was defending ancient Andal custom giving precedence to sons over daughters, or that he did not wish to see Rhaenyra's children whom he believed to be Strong bastards—Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey Velaryon—to inherit the Iron Throne. Criston is remembered as embodying some of the best and worst aspects of the Kingsguard.
A Feast for Crows
Trying to gain Ser Arys Oakheart of the Kingsguard for her plot to crown Princess Myrcella Baratheon, Princess Arianne Martell tells Arys that Anders Yronwood, Lord of Yronwood, is Criston Cole reborn, as Arianne believes that Anders supports her younger brother, Prince Quentyn Martell. Arys recalls a rumor that Criston had been Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen's lover before he joined the Kingsguard.
Quotes by Criston
Seven save this realm if we seat a bastard on the Iron Throne. They will turn the Red Keep into a brothel. No man's daughter will be safe, nor any man's wife. Even the boys ... we know what Laenor was.
Aegon: My new Hand is a steel fist. We are done with writing letters.
Criston: It is not for you to plead for support from your lords, like a beggar pleading for alms. You are the lawful king of Westeros, and those who deny it are traitors. It is past time they learned the price of treason.—Aegon II Targaryen and Criston
Quotes about Criston
My white knight.
When he looks at you, he sees the little girl you were, not the woman you've become, but I can teach you how to make him see you as a woman.
I'll have no songs about how brave you died, Kingmaker. There's tens o' thousands dead on your account.—Pate of Longleaf to Criston
—thoughts of Arys Oakheart
Loras: The heroes will always be remembered. The best.
Jaime: The best and the worst. And a few who were a bit of both. Like him.Jaime: They belonged to Criston Cole, who served the first Viserys and the second Aegon. They called him Kingmaker.
Loras: Who? Ten black pellets on a scarlet field. I do not know those arms.
Behind the Scenes
Criston may be a homage by George R. R. Martin to Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, who is remembered as Warwick the Kingmaker for having supported first Edward IV and then Henry VI as King of England during the Wars of the Roses.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
- Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Red Dragon and the Gold.
- HBO.com: House of the Dragon Cast & Characters
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Blacks and the Greens.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
- Fire & Blood, Aftermath - The Hour of the Wolf.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Hooded Hand.