John Bates is a character on the UK-US period drama, Downton Abbey. He is played by actor Brendan Coyle.
Lord Grantham's valet
We first meet John Bates in the very first episode when he is shown coming on the train to Downton. He was formerly the batman (personal assistant) of the Earl of Grantham, Robert Crawley, when he was fighting in the Boer wars in South Africa.
He was recently hired as Robert's valet. This development angers and infuriates Thomas Barrow, the first footman, who had wanted the job (Thomas derisively called him "Long John Silver"). Bates had taken over the job of valet from a Mister Watson, who had left the family's employ.
Thomas and his ally, Sarah O'Brien, Cora Crawley's lady's maid, plot and scheme to make him lose his job. When a duke makes a visit, O'Brien deliberately kicks Bates' walking stick (he had a leg injury incurred during the Boer wars) out from underneath him, causing him to fall to the gravel. Cora thinks that Bates should be removed from his post, thanks to O'Brien's gossip.
At first, Robert resists the calls to have him removed, but he finally is forced to face the facts, that due to his disability, Bates could not serve at table, which was common for valets; and as such had to be third footman, or be removed. Robert reluctantly fires him. However, when Bates is set to leave, he stops the car and has Bates return to his work.
When he first comes to Downton Abbey, he is befriended by Anna Smith, the head housemaid. She is the one who helps him get up after his fall on the gravel. As time goes on, they become close.
It was revealed that Bates was married to a nasty woman named Vera (played by Maria Doyle Kennedy). Vera was a thief, who stole things which had gotten him into trouble with his superiors in the military. She had been imprisoned for her crimes, although he took the blame for her crimes. She comes to Downton and forces him to leave the Crawley's employ by utilizing blackmail. However, he would finally divorce the evil woman, and then she is later discovered dead.
She had killed herself by eating a meat pie laced with arsenic. However, one of her friends, who hated him, lied to say that Bates had murdered her. He was tried and was sentenced to death. However, his sentence was commuted to life. Before he was tried for Vera's death, he and Anna got married.
While he was imprisoned in York, Thomas took over as Robert's valet, which the latter did not like, because of Thomas' propensity of him being a thief. So, when Bates was released, nobody, aside from Anna, was happiest that he was freed than Robert. Thomas was infuriated. But since he was named as an under-butler, he wasn't as angered as he could have been.
Bates worked hard, and his ability to thrive even with a disability, made him a beloved member of the staff. Charles Carson grew to befriend him, and he sees Bates as his most reliable subordinate. Despite Thomas' attempts to get him framed for theft, not once but twice (first Thomas took a snuff box; and then tried to frame Bates for stealing wine), he persevered.
He went through a very tough time, when Anna had been arrested for killing a nasty valet who raped her. It turned out that she had not killed him, but someone else had, and the witness was proven to be a liar.
After many tries, he and Anna finally became parents, when she gave birth to their son, John, Jr, while she was in Lady Mary Crawley's room. Of all the complicated relationships in the Crawley house, the Bates were the most stable couples, aside from Robert and Cora.