Episode 5 of the House of the Dragon was a turbulent one and some unexpected events happened which left the fans of the show somewhat shocked but also pleased at the same time. Since the ending of the show Game of Thrones, fans have been longing for new doses of deceptions and betrayal only Westeros can provide. In the House of the Dragon, there is plenty of that so far, and one of the main betrayals, for now, is the one that Criston Cole did against Rhaenyra Targaryen. But why did Ser Criston Cole betray Rhaenyra and confess everything?
Criston Cole betrayed Rhaenyra and confessed everything to his Queen Alison Hightower for several reasons, but the main reason is that he felt like he dishonored himself and his position in the Kingsguard. He also felt hurt because Rhaenyra rejected his proposal. As any decent knight, Criston Cole takes his honor, duty, and position as a code to live by, so he was ready to face the consequences of his actions and asked to be sentenced to death by confessing everything to the Queen.
But, this is not the only reason why Ser Criston confessed everything to Queen Alison Hightower. Before the confession happened, he was ready to leave everything and asked Rhaenyra to go with him somewhere far away from everything where they could be together and live happily and in love, but that didn’t go as planned. She also had different things in mind about what their relationship should be like once she is married. Let’s examine the details behind Ser Criston Cole’s betrayal a little further.
The events that led to Ser Criston Cole’s Confession
In episode 5 we can see King Viserys coming to High Tide to propose matrimony between Rhaenyra and Lord Corlys’s son, Ser Laenor. When everything was arranged they traveled back to the King’s Landing and Rhaenyra traveled alongside Criston Cole.
Criston is not pleased with the fact that Rhaenyra is going to marry Ser Laenor although he respects him and thinks that he is a decent man. However, he suggests to Rhaenyra that she leaves everything, her name, her title, and duties and that she comes with him to Essos where they could be free and where she could marry him. Ser Criston is clearly in love with Rhaenyra and wants her to live a life filled with love and away from all the politics, duties, and perils.
Rhaenyra declined his offer stating that she will never renounce her position because ‘she is the Crown’ and her duty is to marry a noble man from a fine House. The Princess has no intentions whatsoever to renounce her name and all the glory that comes with it for a snug and common life. However, she explains to Ser Criston that her marriage will only be a political act and an act of duty, and says to Criston that she and Laenor had an understanding that after they get married, they are both free to pursue their own interests.
Ser Criston does not take this news well and gets mad because he feels like he betrayed himself and everything he ever stood for. He broke the oath of chastity as a knight of Kingsguard and he hoped he could restore that by marrying Rhaenyra. After Rhaenyra refused his offer he was hurt, bitter and sad.
Upon the arrival at King’s Landing, the Queen summoned Ser Criston and asked him to tell her the truth about the events of the night when Rhaenyra was accused of having lost her maidenhood. Alison was clearly referring to the events that happened in a brothel between Daemon and Rhaenyra and she was probably going to ask Criston about Rhaenyra’s whereabouts that night because as the person that watches Rhaenyra’s every step, he should know what happened.
But, before Alison even finished her question, Ser Criston hastily admitted that it is true that Rhaenyra lost her maidenhood that night and that he was to blame even though it was at Rhaenyra’s instigation. He said that he broke his oath and that he does not wish a pardon for it, but only a death sentence instead of being tortured.
The Queen seemed somewhat confused when Criston was admitting his sins as she clearly didn’t expect to hear that but rather a confirmation that rumors about Rhaenyra and Daemon were true. It was actually Lord Larys that awakened the suspicion in the Queen once again when she told her that he hopes that the Princess is alright, because of her condition. Alison was not sure about what condition Lord Larys is talking about until he explained that the Grand Maester delivered specially brewed tea to Rhaenyra’s chambers and that it was a direct order from the King.
Why did Ser Criston Cole betray Rhaenyra & confessed everything?
To sum up, Criston Cole betrayed Rhaenyra and confessed everything to his Queen Alison Hightower because he felt like he dishonored himself and his position in the Kingsguard. He took an oath to be loyal to the Crown and to always protect Rhaenyra and by taking her maidenhood he put her in grave danger of not being suitable to marry a noble man and also put a shame on her name. So his confession was an act of regret for what he had done and he tried to keep what was left of his honor by confessing.
He was also hurt and resented Rhaenyra because she rejected his proposal to leave Westeros behind and refused to go with him to distant lands where they could be free and marry each other. When he realized that Rhaenyra would never renounce her legacy and her name, it was clear to him that the right thing to do is to confess. Ultimately, it was his feeling of guilt and resentment toward Rhaenyra that made him confess everything to the clement Queen. All of this was a mixture of love, resentment, bitterness, and honor. It is clear that Ser Criston Cole struggled a lot with everything that had happened and he just wanted to liberate himself of shame and part of him wanted Rhaenyra to be punished as well.