Corlys Velaryon, known as the Sea Snake, was a fabled Lord of the Tides, Master of Driftmark, and head of House Velaryon. He was the husband of Princess Rhaenys Targaryen. During the Dance of the Dragons, he became Hand to Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen.
By the of age seven-and-thirty, Corlys was hailed as the greatest seafarer the Seven Kingdoms had ever known. Corlys was said to be as brilliant as he was restless, and as adventurous as he was ambitious. Though he accomplished much and more in life, he was seldom satisfied. Corlys was known to be intractable, even in old age. He was remembered as wise in peace and valiant in war. He was a proud man. Queen Alicent Hightower thought him arrogant.
During his elder years, Corlys liked to say that he was clinging to life "like a drowning sailor clinging to the wreckage of a sunken ship".
Corlys was born in 53 AC at Driftmark to the eldest son of Lord Daemon Velaryon (possibly Corwyn Velaryon) and his lady wife. He was named after his great-granduncle, Ser Corlys Velaryon, who served King Aegon I Targaryen as the first Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
Corlys took to the sea at a young age, first crossing the narrow sea to Pentos with an uncle when he was only six. Corlys would make such voyages every year that followed, working on the ships as a member of the crew. According to the captains he served under, they had never seen such a natural sailor as Corlys. He became a captain himself at the age of sixteen, when he sailed the Cod Queen from Driftmark to Dragonstone and back. By the age of twenty-three, Corlys was already a celebrated mariner. Corlys sailed to Oldtown, Lannisport, Lordsport, Lys, Tyrosh, Pentos, and Myr. He sailed the Summer Maid to Volantis and the Summer Isles, and he took Ice Wolf to Braavos, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, Hardhome, Lorath, and the Port of Ibben. He also took Ice Wolf beyond the Wall, but was unsuccessful in finding a northerly route in the Shivering Sea around Westeros.
Corlys sailed aboard his Sea Snake, a ship he designed and built, on nine great voyages to Essos. During his first voyage, he sailed beyond the Jade Gates at Qarth to Yi Ti and Leng. Corlys returned with treasures like silk, spice, and jade, doubling the wealth of House Velaryon. His second voyage took him to Asshai, where he "lost his love and half his crew", according to the stories. At Asshai, Corlys also saw a ship docked in the harbor that he believed to have been the Sun Chaser of Elissa Farman. Corlys's third voyage led to him becoming the first Westerosi to navigate the Thousand Islands in the Shivering Sea and visit Nefer in N'ghai and Mossovy.
During his ninth voyage on Sea Snake, Corlys filled the ship's hold with gold and bought twenty more ships at Qarth, loading them with spices, elephants, and silk. Only fourteen ships reached Driftmark and all the elephants died, but Corlys became vastly wealthy from the venture. He took his nickname "Sea Snake" from his famous ship. Corlys's expeditions on the Sea Snake have been described by Maester Mathis in his book The Nine Voyages.
Lord of the Tides
Ser Corlys became head of House Velaryon and Lord of the Tides after the death of his grandsire. Richer than Lords Lannister or Hightower through his expeditions, Lord Corlys used his great wealth to construct a new seat, High Tide, where he stored his eastern treasures. The towns of Hull and Spicetown sprang up and drew trade away from King's Landing.
In 90 AC, Corlys married the sixteen-year old Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, the only child of Prince Aemon Targaryen, who in turn was the eldest son of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. Two years later, Corlys sailed his fleet to Tarth, to aid Prince Aemon in fighting the Myrish exiles who had invaded the island. Shortly before they left, Corlys's wife announced she was pregnant. During the campaign, Prince Aemon died, leading King Jaehaerys I Targaryen to appoint a new heir to the throne. He chose his second son Baelon over Aemon's only heir, Rhaenys, thereby also passing over Corlys and Rhaenys's unborn child. Furious over this decision, Corlys gave up his admiralty and his place on the king's small council and returned to Driftmark with his wife.
In late 92 AC,[N 1] Rhaenys gave birth to a daughter, Laena. A son, Laenor, followed in 94 AC. When Prince Baelon died in 101 AC, King Jaehaerys I's succession became unclear again, and reports reached the court that Corlys was gathering ships and men to defend the rights of his son. When the king declared a Great Council would be held at Harrenhal to settle the succession, Corlys and his wife traveled there, using their wealth and influence to try and persuade the lords present to vote for Laenor, after Rhaenys and Laena had been passed over once again on account of their sex. Corlys' fame, reputation, and wealth did much to support Laenor's claim, but in the end, Baelon's son Viserys received the majority of the votes, and was named Prince of Dragonstone.
Following the death of Queen Aemma Arryn, in 105 AC, Grand Maester Runciter suggested to King Viserys I Targaryen that he take Corlys's twelve-year-old daughter, Laena, to wife. King Viserys, however, chose Alicent Hightower. Angered by the third time his wife and children had been scorned by House Targaryen, Corlys and his family did not attend the wedding in 106 AC. Instead, he made an alliance with Prince Daemon Targaryen, King Viserys's younger brother, equally angered by the king's marriage. Corlys had suffered from the Triarchy's rule over the Stepstones, and together with Daemon was determined to conquer the Stepstones for themselves. The fighting began in 106 AC, with Daemon leading their army and Corlys leading their fleet. They won many victories in the first few years, and by 109 AC all but two of the islands and the waters in between were firmly under their control. When Daemon declared himself King of the Stepstones and the Narrow Sea, Corlys placed the crown upon his brow. No further involvement of Corlys in the conflicts have been reported after 109 AC.
In 113 AC, King Viserys I and his small council began discussions concerning a betrothal for Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, Viserys's heir. They eventually agreed on Corlys's son, Laenor. Laenor and Rhaenyra were married in 114 AC. When Rhaenyra gave birth late that same year, Corlys overruled his son's wish and insisted that the child would be given a traditional Velaryon name. The boy was named Jacaerys. Two more sons, Lucerys, in 115 AC, and Joffrey, in 117 AC, would follow.
By 115 AC, Corlys's daughter Laena had been betrothed for nearly a decade to the son of a former Sealord of Braavos. After the Sealord had died, the son had proven to be a wastrel and a fool, who lost all of his family's wealth and power, after which he turned up on Driftmark. Corlys lacked a graceful way to break the betrothal, but was unwilling to let the marriage occur, and had thus repeatedly postponed the wedding over the years. When Prince Daemon Targaryen arrived on Driftmark and asked for Laena's hand in marriage, Corlys thus agreed. Daemon mocked the late Sealord's son until the latter demanded a duel, in which he was slain by Daemon. A fortnight later, Corlys saw Laena and Daemon wed. Through this marriage, Corlys would have two more grandchildren: the twin girls Baela and Rhaena Targaryen, born in 116 AC.
In the first few days of 120 AC, Corlys's daughter Laena died several days after giving birth to her third child, who had died within an hour after birth. His son, Laenor, died not long after, stabbed to death by Ser Qarl Correy while attending a fair in Spicetown. That same year, Lord Lyonel Strong and his son, Ser Harwin, died during a fire at Harrenhal. While there are many stories concerning this fire, the court fool Mushroom claims Corlys had been involved in the fire, as revenge on Harwin cuckolding his son.
When Corlys fell ill with a sudden fever in 126 AC, the issue of the succession of Driftmark arose. As both of his children were dead, according to law Laenor's eldest son Jacaerys stood to inherit. However, Jacaerys, as the eldest son to the Princess of Dragonstone, already stood to inherit the Iron Throne after his mother, and as such, Corlys was being urged by Rhaenyra to name her second son by Laenor, Lucerys, as his heir. However, the eldest of Corlys's six nephews, Ser Vaemond Velaryon, insisted that he should be proclaimed heir, insisting that Rhaenyra's three sons by Laenor had in truth been fathered by the late Ser Harwin Strong. When Prince Daemon seized and executed Vaemond, Vaemond's wife, children, and siblings fled to King's Landing, where they were punished by King Viserys I for repeating the rumors regarding the paternity of Rhaenyra's eldest children. By 129 AC, Corlys had recovered from his illness.
Dance of the Dragons
When King Viserys I Targaryen died in early 129 AC, and the king's eldest son Aegon II Targaryen ascended the throne, passing over Viserys's appointed heir Rhaenyra, Corlys traveled to Dragonstone to lend his support in the struggle to his former daughter-in-law. He sat on Rhaenyra's council and was the greatest lord to pledge his strength to her cause. More than half of Rhaenyra's army was made up of men sworn to House Velaryon. Corlys's fleets also gave the blacks superiority at sea.
When Lord Bartimos Celtigar urged Rhaenyra to reduce King's Landing to ash and bone, Corlys strongly opposed the idea, telling him "we want to rule the city, not burn it to the ground". Corlys' fleet closed off the Gullet and sailed back and forth from Dragonstone and Driftmark, blocking all ships from entering or leaving Blackwater Bay and thereby choking off trade to and from King's Landing. Corlys was on Dragonstone when the black council learned of the death of Lucerys Velaryon, and together with his wife was able to prevent Lucerys' younger brother Joffrey from mounting his own dragon to extract vengeance for his brother's death. According to Mushroom, while Rhaenyra was so griefsick over Lucerys's death, command of the war council was given to Corlys and his wife Rhaenys. When Rhaenys flew to Rook's Rest to give aid to Lord Staunton, who was besieged by the forces of Aegon II, she fell in battle against King Aegon II and Sunfyre, and Prince Aemond Targaryen and Vhagar. When news of Rhaenys's death reached Dragonstone, Corlys blamed Rhaenyra for Rhaenys's death, as she had forbidden her sons from accompanying Rhaenys. Corlys was brought back into the fold when Prince Jacaerys Velaryon named him Hand of the Queen. Together, they planned an assault on King's Landing. For his plan, Jacaerys offered lands, riches and knighthood to anyone who could mount one of the riderless dragons. The fifteen-year-old Addam of Hull managed to claim Seasmoke, formerly ridden by Corlys's late son Laenor. Addam's mother Marilda proclaimed that Addam and his younger brother Alyn had both been fathered by Laenor, and, apparently accepting this fact, Corlys petitioned Rhaenyra to legitimize them both, naming Addam his new heir. Marilda's claim regarding the parentage of her sons was considered remarkable by many, due to the rumors concerning Laenor's sexuality. The court fool Mushroom, however, suggests in his Testimony that Addam and Alyn had both been fathered by Corlys himself, and that he had kept them far from court whilst his wife was still alive, but took the opportunity, after her death, to acknowledge them after a fashion.
Late in 129 AC, the Velaryon blockade in the Gullet was eventually broken by the Triarchy in the battle of the Gullet. During the battle, the Velaryon fleet lost one third of its strength, while sixty-two out of the ninety ships of the Triarchy were destroyed. The survivors of the Triarchy sacked High Tide and put it to the torch, destroying all of the treasures Corlys had gathered in the east. Spicetown was destroyed as well.
In 130 AC, Corlys's shpis closed off Blackwater Bay when Rhaenyra took King's Landing. Though Rhaenyra's forces were victorious in the Butcher's Ball, the First Battle of Tumbleton resulted in a loss for the blacks. King Aegon II and his two younger children were missing, Prince Aemond was terrorizing the riverlands with Vhagar, and Lord Ormund Hightower's host, with Prince Daeron and his dragon Tessarion, was slowly advancing on the city. With these threats in mind, Lord Corlys suggested to Rhaenyra that she should offer pardons to Lord Borros Baratheon, Ormund Hightower and House Lannister, send Queen Alicent Hightower and Queen Helaena Targaryen to the Faith, make Aegon II's daughter Jaehaera Corlys's ward, and to marry her to her own son Aegon in due time, while allowing her half-brothers to take the black. Rhaenyra, however, insisted that her half-brothers had broken their vows before, and that the vows of the Night's Watch would mean little to them. Prince Daemon proposed to destroy both House Lannister and House Baratheon, and granting their seats to Ulf White and Hugh Hammer, two of the four dragonseeds, but Corlys, horrified by this suggestion, insisted that half of the Westerosi lords would turn against them if they were to destroy two ancient and noble houses.
After the Two Betrayers went over to Aegon II's side during the Second Battle of Tumbleton, Lord Corlys spoke in defense of the two remaining dragonseeds, Nettles and Addam Velaryon. He remarked that Addam and Alyn were "true heirs" and worthy of Driftmark, and that Nettles had fought valiantly in the Battle in the Gullet. His protests were in vain, however, and Rhaenyra commanded Ser Luthor Largent to arrest Addam in the Dragonpit. Corlys warned Addam, who made his escape on Seasmoke's back. Confronted by an angry Ser Luthor, Corlys did not deny the accusations of treachery. Corlys was bound and beaten before he was taken down into the Red Keep's dungeons and thrown into a black cell to await trial and execution.
When it became known that Corlys had been arrested, his men, who made up half of Rhaenyra's forces at King's Landing, began to abandon Rhaenyra by the hundreds. Those who remained could not be trusted. Some of Corlys's men joined the mob in Cobbler's Square that had gathered for the riot of King's Landing. Others attempted to scale the walls and free him, and yet others fled the city. Two of lord Corlys' sworn swords, Ser Denys Woodwright and Ser Thoron True, attempted to cut their way to the dungeons to release their liege but their plan was betrayed to Lady Mysaria by a whore Thoron had been bedding. Both men were hanged and Lord Corlys remained imprisoned.
Rhaenyra was eventually forced to flee the city. According to Archmaester Gyldayn, Corlys was released from the dungeons together with the other prisoners by the men of Ser Perkin the Flea, when they took the Red Keep to install Trystane Truefyre on the Iron Throne. However, according to Maester Yandel, Corlys was only released when King Aegon II Targaryen's men took the city back.
Queen Alicent Hightower and Lord Larys Strong offered Corlys a full pardon, in exchange for his support of King Aegon II. Corlys, however, made demands of his own, insisting that all who had fought for Rhaenyra should be pardoned, that his granddaughter Baela should be released immediately, and that Aegon the Younger and Princess Jaehaera should be wed and be proclaimed Aegon II's joint heirs. Although Queen Alicent was outraged by the proposals, Lord Larys Strong convinced her to accept the terms, and Corlys swore his loyalty to Aegon II. King Aegon II, however, was less willing to heed Corlys's counsel, and when the king insisted on ending Rhaenyra's line, either by making Aegon the Younger a eunuch or by having him take the black, and Ser Tyland Lannister argued for Aegon the Younger's immediate execution a horrified Corlys accused them of being "fools, liars, and oathbreakers" and stormed out. Lord Larys Strong afterwards went to Corlys to bring him back on the council, and together they secretly plotted to end the war. Following the defeat of Lord Borros Baratheon at the Battle of the Kingsroad, with an army of rivermen near the city, and a second host, led by Lord Cregan Stark, coming down the kingsroad, Corlys advised Aegon II to join the Night's Watch. The king refused, but was poisoned soon after, thereby ending the war.
Reign of Aegon III
Following the death of Aegon II Targaryen, Corlys sent envoys to Casterly Rock, Storm's End and Oldtown, who had been Aegon II's main supporters, suing for peace. When Lord Cregan Stark arrived in King's Landing, he took power over the court and, insisting that the poisoners of Aegon II were punished, had twenty-two men arrested, including Corlys. This time became known as the Hour of the Wolf. Corlys was spared a trial. Instead, he was freed thanks to an edict of King Aegon III Targaryen that Baela and Rhaena Targaryen had persuaded him to issue. Alysanne Blackwood promised Lord Cregan her hand in marriage if he would honor the edict, which he did.
Corlys served as one of the regents for Aegon III Targaryen during from 131 AC until his death in 132 AC. Corlys was regarded as the most powerful of the regents. When he died of old age on the sixth day of the third moon of 132 AC, at the age of seventy-nine, his body was placed beneath the Iron Throne for a week. Marilda of Hull and her son, Alyn Velaryon, sailed Corlys's remains to Driftmark on Mermaid's Kiss. Corlys was then buried at sea east of Dragonstone on his ancient Sea Snake. When the ship sank, the Cannibal allegedly flew overheard in salute.
After Corlys's death, his grandson and chosen heir, Alyn Velaryon, and his granddaughter, Baela Targaryen, hastily married in order to avoid Aegon III's regents to choose a husband for her without her consent. When Baela became pregnant, Alyn wished to name the child after Corlys. The child turned out to be a girl, however, and was instead named Laena after Corlys' daughter.
Quotes by Corlys
—Corlys at the start of the Dance of the Dragons
My knees are old and stiff and do not bend easy.
Quotes about Corlys
Seventy-nine years of age, he had served four kings and a queen, sailed to the ends of the earth, raised House Velaryon to unprecedented levels of wealth and power, married a princess who might have been a queen, fathered dragonriders, built towns and fleets, proved his valor in times of war and his wisdom in times of peace. The Seven Kingdoms would never see his like again.—writings of Gyldayn
- Earlier editions of Fire & Blood mentioned Rhaenys learning of her pregnancy in early 92 AC and giving birth to Laena in 93 AC. Later editions of Fire & Blood corrected Laena’s birth to late in the year 92 AC.
- Fire & Blood, Aftermath - The Hour of the Wolf.
- Fire & Blood, Birth, Death, and Betrayal Under Jaehaerys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Hooded Hand.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Red Dragon and the Gold.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Red Kraken.
- HBO.com: House of the Dragon Cast & Characters
- Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Short, Sad Reign of Aegon II.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Blacks and the Greens.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
- Fire & Blood, The Long Reign - Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny, and Pain.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Nefer.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - A Son for a Son.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon II.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of Dragons - Rhaenyra Overthrown.
- The Princess and the Queen.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - War and Peace and Cattle Shows.