*WARNING: Contains spoilers for George R.R. Martin’s books and potentially the TV show House of the Dragon.
We’re only at the very beginning of the new HBO Game of Thrones spinoff called House of the Dragon – and we already have new fan-favorite knights in sight. Namely, Ser Criston Cole, the Dornish knight who beat Prince Daemon Targaryen in a melee. So, who is Ser Criston Cole, where does he come from, and what’s his role in the Dance of the Dragons?
Ser Criston Cole was born to a steward of Lord Dondarrion at Blackhaven in the Dornish Marches. With no land or title to his name, all Criston had was his incredible skill as a knight and a warrior, which he used to rise from being nothing to being the Hand of the King.
His road was turbulent, rocky, and even morally questionable at times, going from the greatest friend and even love interest of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen to her greatest nemesis. His role in pushing the buttons to cause the Dance of the Dragons and the eventual downfall of the House Targaryen was immense. Let’s recap his origins, as well as his potential role in the show.
Ser Criston Cole’s Origins & Background
As I’ve mentioned, Ser Criston Cole was a Dornish warrior of House Cole, born to a steward of Lord Dondarrion at Blackhaven during the Dornish Marches. Criston was born in 82 AC and quickly became one of the finest warriors in Dorne. If you remember, Dorne is known for having incredible warriors, such as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones, some 200 years later.
Cole was a fine knight but had no land of title to his name to claim. All he had was his sword, his honor, and exceptional combat skills that eventually had Ser Criston rise through the ranks, even becoming the Hand of the King at one point. We’ll get to that later.
Much like the actor portraying Cole in the series, Fabien Frankel, Ser Criston was described as having pale green eyes and coal black hair. Many ladies would describe him as charming. His rise and fall actually started when he was 22 years old – during the events we’ve now seen in Episode 1 of the series, House of the Dragon.
The only difference is that, in the show, he attended a tourney to celebrate the birth of King Viserys’s second child and first son, whereas, in the books, the tourney was held to celebrate King Viserys himself and his ascension to the Iron Throne.
Ser Criston Cole’s Role In The Dance Of The Dragons
It all started at the tourney for Ser Criston. After he had won a melee against the renowned warrior, Prince Daemon Targaryen, knocking out the Valyrian steel sword, Dark Sister, out of Daemon’s hands. The royal court took notice – including King Viserys.
After the victory over Prince Daemon, Ser Criston Cole gave the victor’s laurel to the King’s first-born, Princess Rhaenyra, and wore her favor until the end of the tourney. The much-younger Princess was enamored. This is what we’ve seen of Cole so far in the show.
Once again, I must warn you that there will be spoilers ahead for George R.R. Martin’s books, meaning there’ll be potential spoilers for the show, provided they follow Martin’s work closely.
To indulge his daughter, King Viserys named Ser Criston Rhaenyra’s sworn shield, and only a year later, Cole was already a member of the Kingsguard. Now, after the King’s wife passed away tragically, he found a second wife in Alicent Hightower, the friend of his daughter and to-be-heir Rhaenyra and daughter of his Hand, Otto Hightower.
It’ll be important for Cole’s future storyline. In the meantime, Daemon had a fallout with his brother, King Viserys, and left the capital while young Rhaenyra tried to seduce Ser Criston. Seeing that she was so young, Cole rejected her.
A year later, Ser Harrold Westerling died, and Ser Criston Cole was named as his successor, being the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Meanwhile, Princess Rhaenyra grew and was groomed by the King to become his heir and the first Queen ever to sit on the Iron Throne.
Ser Criston Cole’s Change
Viserys arranged for his daughter to be married to Ser Laenor Velaryon, which prompted Cole to enter her chambers one night and express his love for her. However, this time, she rejected Cole, which was the very start of turning their relationship from close and friendly to distant and maleficent.
Now, things start to get complicated again when the King’s second wife, Alicent, gives birth to not one but two sons – prince Aegon II and prince Aemond. Cole grew close with both Princes, teaching them how to fight and be skilled swordsmen. At the same time, Princess Rhaenyra already married her second husband – her uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen.
And then, King Viserys died, and all hell broke loose. Queen Alicent and Ser Criston gathered a council to discuss the heirloom of the Iron Throne. Cole argued that, despite the King naming Rhaenyra as his heir, she, or her husband, Prince Daemon, should have no right to the throne.
He argued that Rhaenyra’s children were bastards and that the King’s heir should be his first-born son, Aegon II.
Now, it’s never explicitly stated what motifs Ser Criston has for these moves, but there are two possible answers. One, he was acting out of pure self-centered ambition, knowing he could manipulate Aegon as the King more than he could Rhaenyra as the Queen. Adding the fallout between him and the Princess, it’s no wonder he didn’t want her as Queen.
Two, he was a purist, defending the old ways of the Andal that give precedence to sons over daughters, regardless of who was born first. Additionally, if he saw Rhaenyra’s children as bastards, he certainly didn’t want to see them on the Iron Throne one day. Whichever motive you believe to be the truth is fine. Personally, I think he just didn’t want Rhaenyra to rule.
Anyways, he convinced Aegon II to claim the Iron Throne and became the Hand of the King. That gave Ser Criston Cole the nickname, Criston the Kingmaker. It’s also what eventually prompts the Dance of the Dragon, a war between Aegon II and his half-sister, Rhaenyra, that led to the eventual downfall of the House Targaryen.
Cole was eventually killed in the battle of Butcher’s Ball, and his head was carried on a spear. I won’t get into more detail about the Dance and who won, but that’s pretty much where Ser Criston’s story ends. I’m dying to see what they’ll do with the character in the show.
Who Is Fabien Frankel?
Like many other actors in the House of the Dragon TV show, Fabien Frankel is a new face and an upcoming star in the industry. He was born in London on April 6, 1994, attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 2017.
His professional acting career started in 2019 with a minor role in the romantic Christmas comedy called Last Christmas. Interestingly, the film was led by Emilia Clarke, the actress portraying Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. Also, quite interestingly, Fabien was portraying a character called – Fabien.
Frankel’s most notable role so far, however, came in the Netflix original crime series, The Serpent, where he portrayed Dominique Renelleau. If you haven’t watched the show, I highly recommend it.
The last project Fabien worked on is called Venice at Dawn, where he’ll portray Dixon, one of the lead characters. Fabien Frankel might not be a big name in the industry yet, but he is certainly on the right path, and his portrayal of Ser Criston Cole will certainly get him a step closer.