Long before Tywin of Lannister became the richest in all of the Seven Kingdoms, Lord Corlys Velaryon ruled the seas. “House of the Dragon” Episode 1 established Lord Corlys Valaryon as the wealthiest man in the realm who had amassed such a joyous fortune over his countless voyages. So, let’s take a deep dive into the history of the white-haired Velaryon and see how he amassed such wealth.
Corlys Was The Finest Seamen of Seven Kingdoms
Lord Corlys Velaryon had several titles under his belt. Other than as Master of Driftmark, he was also known as “Sea Snake” and Lord of the Tides. He wed Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, aka “The Queen Who Never Was,” and had two children, Sir Laenor and Princess Laena Velaryon. Lord Corly Velaryon is one of the most important characters in the “House of the Dragon” because when the Targaryen civil war commenced, he was appointed as “hand” to Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen.
By the time Corlys became an adult, he was already heralded as the finest seaman the realm had ever seen. It was stated of Corlys that he was as bright as he was impatient, as daring as he was driven. Despite his many successes, he was never really content. It was common knowledge that Corlys was stubborn even in his old age. People recalled him as calm and collected off the battlefield yet fearless while fighting. He held his honor in high regard. His arrogance even turned off Queen Alicent Hightower. Whenever he was asked about his age, Corlys would joke that he was like a drowning sailor clutching to the remains of his boat.
Corlys’ Legendary Voyages
At the tender age of six, Corlys made his first voyage across the Strait of Pentos with his uncle. Over the next several years, Corlys would often participate in similar trips, often serving as a crewman on board the vessels. The commanders he sailed under all said that they had never met a more adept at sea than Corlys. At the age of 16, he took command of the Cod Queen and steered it from Driftmark to Dragonstone and returned. In his early twenties, Corlys had already achieved fame as a sea captain.
Corlys made nine heroic voyages to Essos onboard the Sea Snake, a vessel he fashioned himself. During his first expedition, he journeyed across the Qarthian Jade Gates to the lands of Yi Ti and Leng. Silk, spices, and emerald were among the goods Corlys brought back from his travels, which increased House Velaryon’s fortune by two-fold. According to legend, on his return journey, he sailed to Asshai, wherein he lost the woman he loved and almost all his men. Corlys also reported seeing a vessel in the port at Asshai that he thought was Elissa Farman’s legendary Sun Chaser.
On his third journey, Corlys became the very first Westerosi to go to Nefer in N’ghai and Mossovy, taking the route of the Thousand Islands inside the Shivering Sea. On his ninth journey, Corlys stocked his vessel with riches and used the proceeds to purchase twenty more vessels, which he then sent out to Qarth loaded with spices, elephants, and silk. Even though just 14 ships made it to Driftmark, whereas all the elephants perished, the expedition was very profitable for Corlys. His legendary vessel inspired the moniker “Sea Snake” for him. After his grandfather passed away, Ser Corlys took over as head of House Velaryon and Lord of the Tides. Lord Corlys, who became wealthier than all the major households at the time thanks to his voyages, built a new seat called High Tide to house his eastern relics.
In 126 AC, when Corlys suddenly developed a sickness, the question of who would succeed him as ruler of Driftmark emerged. Laenor’s oldest son, Jacaerys, was legally entitled to succeed after the death of both Laenor and Laena. However, Princess Rhaenyra asked Corlys to name Lucerys to inherit his seat as the ruler of Driftmark. Tension grew strong as another candidate, Ser Vaemond Velaryon, emerged, claiming he was the rightful heir and alleging that Rhaenyra’s sons held no legitimate claim to the throne since they were bastards and born of the enterprise of Rhaenyra and Sir Harwin, who died of the fire during his stay in the Castle of Harrenhal. Prince Daemon, who was at the time married to Rhaenyra Targaryen, flew to Driftmark and murdered Velaryon his family escaped hoping to find sanctuary in Westeros but were jailed for their vile allegation of his grandson’s legitimacy.
Lord Corlys’ Role In The Targaryen Civil War
King Viserys’ death triggered the Targaryen Civil War, also known as the Dance of the Dragon. Originally, King Viseys wanted Rhaenyra to succeed him, but Alicent Hightower wanted her son to sit on the Iron Throne, so she kept Viserys’ death a secret for several weeks. Alicent conspired with Otto Hightower and Sir Criston Cole and made Aegon II the King. Upon hearing the news of Aegon’s coronation, Rhaenyra declared herself the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Corlys visited Dragonstone to back his ex-daughter-in-law in her battle. He was the most powerful noble to publicly support Rhaenyra’s claim. Nearly half of Rhaenyra’s soldiers were pledged to House Velaryon. Corlys’ warships also provided the blacks an advantage on the seas.
It was Corlys who convinced Joffrey Velaryon not to fly to Kings’ Landing to kill Aegon for murdering his brother Lucersys. Rhaenyra’s sorrow for Lucerys’s loss was so great that she gave Corlys and Rhaenys control of the war council. While attempting to rescue Lord Staunton from Aegon II, Rhaenys was ambushed by both Aegon and Aemond and was killed by Sunfyre after a valiant battle. Rhaenyra chastised Rhaenyra, who had barred her sons from joining Rhaenys, for Rhaenys’ execution when word of his demise hit Dragonstone. It was also Corlys who gave Rhaenyra the opportunity to use “Dragon Seeds” to gain an edge in the battle. The Dragon Seeds were the illegitimate Targaryen bastards who were able to bond with the dragons.
Corlys, the scheme’s mastermind, promised property, wealth, and knighthood to anybody who could successfully saddle any of the remaining dragons. Addam of Hull, aged fifteen, succeeded in bonding with Laenor’s Seasmoke. Addam’s mother, Marilda, asserted that her sons were born of her enterprise with Laenor, and Corlys, evidently believing this truth, asked Rhaenyra to legitimize them both so that Addam might succeed his father as king. But many claimed that they were, in reality, Corlys’ son, and he was using the situation to acknowledge them. Following the Battle of Tumbleton, when the Two Turncoats had defected to Aegon II’s cause, Lord Corlys had defended the surviving dragon seeds, Addam Velaryon and Nettles. He said that Nettles served bravely in the Conflict in the Gullet, and both Alyn and Addam were “legitimate successors” and deserving of Driftmark.
In spite of his objections, Rhaenyra ordered Ser Luthor Largent to place Addam under custody in the Dragonpit. Addam was cautioned by Corlys and managed to get away on Seasmoke’s back. When questioned by a furious Ser Luthor, Corlys made no attempt to refute Ser Luthor’s claims of betrayal. After being chained and tortured, Corlys was carried to the bowels of the Red Keep and placed in a windowless prison to face his hearing and perhaps death. The news of Corlys’ imprisonment caused half of Rhaenyra’s soldiers in King’s Landing to defect to the Greens. What was left could hardly be trusted. A portion of Corlys’s troops accompanied the King’s Landing rioters who had congregated in Cobbler’s Square. Some people tried to climb the stone walls to get to him, while others just ran away. Ser Thoron True and Ser Denys Woodwright tried to free Corlys but were caught and hanged, and Corlys was left incarcerated in jail. As events unfolded, Rhaenyra was ultimately driven out of the town.
In “House of the Dragon,” the role of Lord Corlys is portrayed by Steve Toussaint hailed for his role in Prince of Persia, Pine Gap, and Flight of Fury. Lord Coryls is unlike any character you’ve seen in Game of Thrones. Some might draw parallels between Lord Corlys and Tywin because of their voyages, battles, and riches but they’re not the same. At his time (some 200 years from now) Tywin Lannister was the wealthiest and most ruthless man in all of the seven Kingdoms and inspired the saying “Lannisters Shits Gold.” Lord Corlys’ humble beginning has rendered him honorable, and loyal, and has earned him a reputation as the clever administrator who masterfully handled all Rhaenyra’s troops. Without Lord Corlys’ support, Rhaenyra would have been captured and executed way sooner. Unlike other characters in “House of The Dragon,” Corlys don’t long for the Iron Throne. He is a calculated man who realizes that he has no claim over the Seven Kingdoms. But it doesn’t matter who rules over the Iron Throne, it is Lord Corlys who has real authority over the seas. He has millions of loyal men under his command who’re willing to sacrifice their lives for his cause. Viserys’ father saw the marriage of Corlys and his daughter Rhaenys to strengthen Westeros’ navy so he could gain control over all three, The Land, The Skies, and The Sea for himself and his successors to come.