House of the Dragon has given us several compelling relationships whether they are between a human and a dragon or a father and a daughter. The one we will explore today is not bound by blood. Criston Cole is a knight in the Kingsguard. He also seems to be Princess Rhaenyra’s sworn shield. The two of them have struck a beautiful friendship in House of the Dragon. This is especially evident during episode 3.
In the very first episode, King Viserys hosts a Tournament in honor of his unborn son who would be his next heir. Ser Criston Cole, a Dornish knight took part in it and even managed to win by defeating Prince Daemon Targaryen. After this victory, he asked Princess Rhaenyra for her favour so that he could assure his win in the entirety of the event. While watching the duels, Rhaenyra immediately seems intrigued by Ser Criston. She even asks Ser Harrold about him.
During the second episode of House of the Dragon, King Viserys asks Rhaenyra to appoint a knight to the Kingsguard. He wanted her to carry out this duty as the heir to the Iron Throne. She immediately asks Ser Harrold Westerling if any of the knights had real-life combat experience. Lo and behold it was Ser Criston Cole. Princess Rhaenyra was intrigued and impressed by this fact and quickly chose him. His simplicity and vast experience were something that Rhaenyra was curious about.
This is where their friendship truly blossomed on-screen. After feeling disrespected by Jason Lannister, Rhaenyra approaches King Viserys demanding answers. When she finds out that she’s being forced to marry, enraged she runs away from the hunting camp on a horse. Ser Criston Cole like the faithful protector runs after her. However, during the entire time they spent in the forest, he treated her with kindness and respected her choices unlike the others around her. He also helped her find self-worth when all she felt was neglect. Ser Criston showed gratitude toward her for appointing him to the Kingsguard and changing his life for the better. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra values his opinion and advice and genuinely seems to enjoy his company. Both of them spend the night in the forest. In a reality where hundreds of suitors are sending their proposals for Princess Rhaenyra’s hand in marriage to King Viserys, all the Princess truly wanted was company and friendship.
As is the custom in this franchise, every relationship is fallible and tables can turn within seconds. A similar fate is met in the relationship between Princess Rhaenyra and Ser Criston Cole. Initially, he used to be her staunchest ally and closest friend. He was also her sworn protector. However, Criston had professed his love to Princess Rhaenyra before her marriage to Laenor Velaryon. He had even suggested they elope. Rhaenyra though turns him down in what was most probably a harsh refusal. This begins the lifelong feud between the two where they become sworn enemies.
In fact, Criston Cole was instrumental in causing the Dance of the Dragons to begin. He encouraged and provoked Queen Alicent Hightower to ignore the wishes of the late King and instead appoint her son Aegon to the Iron Throne. He was also the one to put the crown on Aegon II’s head. By then he had become the Lord Commander and had earned a place in the King’s small council. Eventually, he became one of the most important members of the greens and was even the Hand of the King during Aegon II Targaryen’s reign. During a small council meeting to decide the heir after Viserys’ death, Criston apparently cut open Lord Lyman Beesbury’s throat. Beesbury was the only supporter of Rhaenyra and the rest too met similar fates at the hand of Criston. I’m guessing you now get the picture of how much he hated her. He went from being a simple and noble man to one of the more vile and violent supporters of Aegon II.