Downton Abbey is full of morally gray characters. While there are certainly heroes, such as the pure Sybill, or plain villains, such as Mr. Green, many of the other cast members fall somewhere in between. Certainly, Thomas Barrow comes to mind, but there is another character who straddles that morally blurred line almost more so.
Mr. John Bates, the valet to Lord Grantham, has lived a complicated life, both of outstanding moral fiber and shocking criminality. One of the biggest indicators of this is his quotes. Below you can find the best quotes from John Bates.
10 "Whenever I see a problem, you see only possibilities."
The best of John Bates is embodied in his wife Anna. Their love is one of the strongest in the show and also the relationship put through the most stress. But, their balance of attitudes, with Anna being the eternal optimist and Bates being the loyal realist, allows for a strong and inseparable bond.
This quote embodies that balance, and how much Bates values it. So much of the pain that they go through is because of outside forces creating constant obstacles. Anna is constantly adapting to it though, and Bates has to admire that.
9 "I miss you when you're out of sight, let alone in London"
So many of these quotes will have to do with the relationship between Bates and Anna because that is so much of both of their characterizations. As Ladies need to go on distant trips, so do their Lady's Maids. When Anna must accompany Mary to London, this was Bates' response when she asked him if he'll miss her.
It shows how important Anna is to Bates. So much of his life was dominated by darkness, that being with her is the grandest privilege. Any time spent away is agony to Bates.
8 "I've let you down." -Anna "There are no words less true than those. You could never let me down." -Bates
Once again, Bates shows how high of a pedestal he places Anna on. When Anna thought she was pregnant, she held back and didn't tell Mr. Bates. Finally though, when she learned she wasn't, she opened up to him. She was ashamed and felt that he must be equally so. This was his response.
Once again, for all of his faults, he knows how to love someone unconditionally, and to forgive them. While Anna's actions make sense, Bates certainly had the grounds to feel disappointed in her. Instead, he reacted with patience and understanding.
7 "Nothing is over. And nothing is done with."
This quote encapsulates that horrible darkness that constantly plagues Bates as a character. While he is noble in his pursuits against injustice and a wonderful partner to Anna, he has many dark tendencies and faults. For one thing, he was believed to have murdered two individuals.
The deservingness of their murders is a different conversation, but the fact that Bates constantly resorts to crime is uneasy, to say the least. This quote shows that no matter how much logic is presented, Bates will allow emotion and passion to rule his choices. Revenge is the only option.
6 "It must be my fault because she is incapable of fault."
Apologies in advance, but these are going to be most of the memorable quotes from Bates. The dude just really likes his wife. This quote comes after Anna's assault at the hands of Mr. Green. She had refused to admit what happened to her, leaving Bates in the dark.
Because of this, he was left feeling alone, confused, and deeply hurt. This is in no way to blame Anna, just to show how Bates must have felt at the time. Even he says in this quote that these feelings must have been because of him.
5 "Prison was an education."
As stated, Bates has a bit of a dodgy past. After visiting prison for being accused of his wife's death, along with other possible criminal stints before the series, Bates has picked up a lot of skills along the way. Whether it's his ability to forge handwriting, pick locks, or pull off a murder, Bates is the man for the job. Yikes.
No matter what though, prison also served as a wake-up call for Bates. It reminded him of what he had gained at Downton, and how easily it could be taken away. So, apart from the morally ambiguous skills he learned during his incarceration, he also learned to value freedom.
4 "You are a lady to me. And I never knew a finer one."
Once again, the guy really loves his wife. It feels like every other word the man says is about how wonderful, honest, beautiful, hard-working, or just amazing his wife is. It's understandable though, Anna is great. But why is she sticking around with a guy who keeps getting them into trouble with the law? probably because of all the compliments. He knows how to do it well enough. Oh well, not every relationship is perfect.
3 "Are you sure? You're as white as a sheet." -Mrs. Hughes "It's my wonderful complexion, inherited from my Irish mother." - Mr. Bates
This quote might just seem odd. In fact, it is certainly odd. But, in context, it shows a lot about the character of Bates. Way back in season one, Bates attempted to fix his limp with a barbaric brace which caused a lot of pain in his leg. Cutting into his skin and doing far more harm than good, Bates could barely walk.
Mrs. Hughes saw right through him, stating the above quote. Bates came at it though with a strong and quick-witted response. Bates, as honest as he often is, is an easy liar. He always as some excuse up his sleeve.
2 “Funny, our job. The way we live with all this pirate’s horde within our reach, but none of it’s ours.”
This quote from bates is a fascinating one. It shows two things in particular. Firstly, it is an interesting observation on the servants of Downton and how loyal most are to their employers. Not to mention, this quote also shows the stark disparity of wealth between these aristocrats and their lowly servants.
It also has a different lens when it comes from bates. While he is no thief, Bate still has a criminal background. Out of anyone on the show, he would know just how to get away with stealing something and where to sell it. Luckily, he likes his employers.
1 "You can change your life if you want to. Sometimes you have to be hard on yourself, but you can change it completely."
This quote embodies the best of Bates. Coming from a character who lives disabled, and comes from a life of crime and abuse, it does show how far and how drastic his life has come. After coming to Downton, he gained a respectful career, reignited a friendship with Lord Grantham, found his true love, and started a new life. This quote is Bates through and through. Few characters on the show have come as far as Bates has. Though it certainly wasn't easy, he knows that it was worth it.