Sir Richard Carlisle did or at least he got one of his heavies to do it.
Indeed, though there is the argument that Vera was legitimately driven to suicide, that she didn't just do it on a whim. It's something open for speculation, though I personally am convinced that there are pieces we are missing, yes, but Bates is very likely to be innocent.
I heard another theory that strikes me as interesting (and somewhat plausible):
Vera and Bates were very happily married until some point (I'd say after he came back from Africa), and (this is going with the post-Africa assumption) the path that Bates went down after Africa upset Vera, pushing her to the brink of her sanity (maybe over), which spawned the malicious and wicked being we know as the late Mrs. Vera Bates. She blamed Bates for the way she was, and saw no reason not to pin her suicide on her husband. Two birds with one stone.
An alternative to the marriage-gone-wrong bit is that she became very upset with herself for her inability to give Bates kids, which made her incredibly jealous when (and if) she saw Bates with Anna (my theory is she spotted them one day or another, purely by chance). She then made it her goal to either make Bates's life miserable, or make Anna's life miserable (think Hera in Greek mythology), so she would have her husband's love back. Not as plausible as the first variation, but I have a feeling that could be some motive...
Vera in general is just an interesting character to examine, because, as with most antangoists, there's a curiosity as to what went wrong and where. I am convinced that Vera and Bates were very happily married at some point, and, like all marriages, it went sour for some reason, and the blame game begun. Understanding that, it might be valid to state that Mr. Bates was indirectly responsible for what happened, whether intentionally or not.
We'll never know, will we?
ITA with the idea they were originally happily married and that Bates changed when he came back from the Boer War. His own mother said he was a nasty drunk and that he was at least verbally abusive to his wife.
This may come as a real shock to you, but Bates was Robert's bat man (personal servant) during the Boer War which means that he went wherever Robert went. So if Robert was sipping cocktails in Capetown, Bates was probably mixing the drinks.
And if Bates was in battle, it's because so was Robert.
The theme from Batman - the U.S. 1960s TV series - comes to mind. I believe that Bates had a spell of battle that Robert was eminently unsuited for. I believe that something unexpected happened and Robert panicked, leaving Bates to take charge. Bates was the true soldier. Robert was an aristocratic coward, like they all are. (Channelling Bunting here, Boss!)
Baldrick was Blackadder's batman during WWI, to go off on a tangent.
I don't believe Robert was a coward, although it may explain the need to go to the front in WWI.
There are a couple references to Robert and Bates being in battle together during the Boer War in the first series. I'm not sure if he was wounded while he was serving with Robert or later.
Also, you have to remember that at least at the very start of WWI, men actually wanted to fight and be in combat. That's because of the propaganda campaign where everyone was being told about how well things were going and what heroes the men were and also because often the men who came back on leave didn't want to talk about what was actually happening.
The idea that Robert would have been itching to be in battle wouldn't have been odd at all.
Now, Thomas, on the other hand...
246 wrote: "Baldrick was Blackadder's batman during WWI, to go off on a tangent."
Alliterative tangents are the stuff that dreams are made of.
In a previous episode of Downton, Mrs Bates attempted to blackmail Sir Richard, you may recall he had bought her story and she signed an agreement preventing her from talking to anyone else about it. Sir Richard said something along the lines of - if you cross me you'll regret it.
This is why I need to review older episodes when talking about these things...you do have a point...hmmmmm.....
What do you think?