Anna May Bates (née Smith) (b. 1886) was head housemaid at Downton Abbey and is currently lady's maid to Lady Mary Crawley. She is also the wife of John Bates. She gave birth to their son on New Year's Eve, 1925.
Anna is considered perhaps the prettiest of the female servants. She has blond hair, fair skin, and midnight blue eyes. She is petite, slim, and of a medium height. As a servant she is mostly seen in her black lady's maid attire and on her days off she wears brighter colours and floral patterns.
Anna is the epitome of a good servant. She is loyal to a fault and a kind friend to the Crawley family, especially Lady Mary. They deeply respect and hold a strong regard for her in return. Despite all the devastation and uncanny bad fortune Anna and her beloved Mr Bates has suffered, she continues to be a thoughtful, compassionate, positive and resilient woman.
Anna grew up with her mother and sister. Her father died when she was young, and her mother remarried in order to ensure the family's security. Anna's stepfather sexually abused her, but her mother refused to believe it as the family would not survive without him. So one night, Anna defended herself with a knife and cut him. Her mother had the matter kept quiet, after which Anna got a job further away from home. Anna later became the head house maid at Downton.
Lady Mary wakes up Anna to tell her that Kemal Pamuk had died in her bed. Not wanting to betray Lady Mary, they agree to enlist the help of Mary's mother Cora to help move the body of Mr. Pamuk back to his own room, where he is found the next day by footman Thomas Barrow.
Anna has a special relationship with John Bates. When he first arrives, Anna was kind to Bates while others doubted his ability to be a valet with an injured leg. However, their friendship gradually blossoms into romance, and she later admits that she loves him. Mr. Bates returned her feelings, though he felt uneasy about entering a relationship with her, as he held his own secrets. He admits he is married but does not love his wife. When Bates almost loses his position after admitting he had been jailed for theft, he tells Anna to "go to sleep and dream of a better man," but she refused. While Anna is in London for Mrs. Patmore's eye surgery, she visits Mr. Bates' mother. She learns the truth about his prison sentence - that it was actually his wife Vera who had stolen the items - and thus saves his position by telling Lord Grantham.
At the beginning of the second series, Mr. Bates arrives back at Downton (having been in London after his mother died) and he doesn't waste time before informing her that there is a possibility of a divorce ahead. He asks Anna to marry him. She immediately accepts, and they begin to discuss their future. But his wife, Vera, turns up suddenly at Downton Abbey. She forces Mr. Bates to resign by threatening to ruin the Crawley family by exposing the truth about Kemal Pamuk, including Anna's role in covering up his death. Bates leaves Anna without telling her the true reason, breaking not only her heart but her dreams. Eventually she learns through Lady Mary (who found out through Sir Richard Carlisle) that Mr. Bates has been working in a pub nearby. She visits him and he tells her that that he can now prove that Vera Bates has not been faithful to him. He says he will divorce Vera and come back to Downton very soon, offering Vera more money than the papers will give her through the inheritance he received after his mother's death.
When he returns to Downton as Lord Grantham's valet again by request, she was delighted. However, Vera is infuriated that he has returned to Anna and tells them that she plans to sell the story anyway. After Vera's plan to sell the story to Sir Richard Carlisle backfires on her, she tries to get the divorce overturned by telling the judge that Mr. Bates offered to pay her off to divorce him. Mr. Bates goes to London to deal with the matter and try to talk some sense into Vera. Shortly after, Vera is found dead and Mr. Bates is a suspect because of his motives. Anna insists on marrying immediately in case Mr. Bates is arrested, so she has rights as his wife. They get married in secret but they planned to tell everyone after Lavinia Swire's funeral, as only Mary Crawley and housemaid Jane Moorsum knew. After attending Miss Swire's funeral, Anna, as well as Bates, Mrs. Hughes and Carson discover that two officers are waiting for Mr. Bates, and he is arrested for the murder of Vera Bates. Anna and John both declare their feelings for each other before he is taken away by the officers.
Anna became aware of and kept quiet before it was announced to the whole Crawley family that Lady Sybil and the Crawley's family chauffeur, Tom Branson, are in a romantic relationship. Anna and Lady Mary discover that they're on their away to Gretna Green to get married. She, Lady Mary, and Lady Edith went after the couple. Anna spotted the Crawley's car which was parked on the road where Lady Sybil and Tom Branson were staying. Sybil returned back to Downton with them, when she was leaving she told Tom that she will stay true to him.
One night, Anna, and Ladies Mary and Edith, learned from Lady Sybil that Tom has a new job and she and Tom are announcing their engagement to the Crawley family. Anna told her it was a very big thing to give up her whole world. After Sybil and Tom's announcement the next day, Anna in the Servants Hall at Downton, saw Mr Branson arriving and politely spoke to him. Daisy briefly over hears Anna and Tom talking. He informs his former co-workers that he and Lady Sybil are getting married, much to their shock and Mr. Carson's outrage.
Anna spoke to Lady Mary about her secret plans to get married to John Bates. Lady Mary told her she will cover for her and she instructed housemaid Jane Moorsum to decorate one of bedrooms for a wedding gift; only she and Jane knew they were married during that time.
Anna was truly supported by the Crawley family, fellow co-workers and Lady Mary when her husband was arrested and on trial for murder; Lady Mary supported and stayed with Anna throughout Bates' trial and its outcome.
Anna visits her husband in prison and attends his trial, alongside Lady Mary Crawley, Robert Crawley, Isobel Crawley and Matthew Crawley and lawyer George Murray. The prosecution calls Mrs. Hughes, Miss O'Brien, and cross examines Lord Grantham as witnesses, to bring up conversations they had with Mr. Bates, or discussions they overheard. The jury finds him guilty and sentences him to be hanged, though later on his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. Anna, the lawyers, Robert and the rest of the Crawley family are still planning to appeal the verdict and to get Bates out of prison.
Anna receives constant letters from her husband in prison, which are described as the "highlight of [her] week." She is also one of the only servants to treat Tom Branson respectfully on his return, as he is now upstairs due to his marriage to Lady Sybil. Like all the staff, when Sybil dies she is utterly heartbroken, and even shows some kindness towards Thomas as he also grieves for Sybil. Towards the end of the series, she is promoted to Lady Mary's lady's maid. Mary remarks that she still calls her Anna, since she "can't very well call her Bates." After, Edith remarks she misses Anna and mentions a new maid, further indicating how much the sisters respect her. Anna's determination to free her husband finally pays off. After much searching, she meets Vera's friend Audrey and finds evidence that clears the charges against her husband. She is there when he is released, and they greet one another lovingly. They move into a small cottage together, and start painting it. It is done by the time O'Brien pays them a visit. She insists Thomas must go and cannot understand why Bates helps him. In the end, Anna asks Bates what it was that helped convince O'Brien to stop trying to ruin Thomas, and is told of "her ladyship's soap."
When she goes to Scotland she comforts Lady Rose MacClare and takes a picnic with her husband. She calls herself racy when her husband says so, then asks her what she is up to. She insists nothing. They both laugh happily. It is revealed Rose is teaching her Scottish dancing as a surprise for her husband. Mary and Bates are amazed at Anna's dancing, and agree that she is marvelous.
Following Matthew Crawley's death, she tries to help Mary come out of mourning by offering her clothing that is not black and remarking that Mary's son George has his mother (after Mary called him a "poor little orphan"). When Edna Braithwaite returns to Downton as a lady's maid, Anna is framed by her and Thomas for ruining a piece of clothing belonging to Cora. Cora, surprised that Anna would make such a mistake, still tells Robert, who confronts her husband, stating Anna has been unkind. John then becomes suspicious of Edna.
Rose, now living at Downton, invites Anna out to a dance hall with her in York, where they meet Sam Thawley. Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong and Anna urges Rose away. She later helps Rose disguise herself in order to say a proper goodbye to Sam when he comes round to see if she is alright. | When a number of guests come to stay at Downton, Green, the valet of Lord Gillingham takes a shine to Anna. He thanks her after she helps him with some bags he dropped and tells her about an exciting card game she did not know. However, Mr Bates becomes suspicious of him and this causes some tension between Mr Bates and Anna because she does not see what the problem is, thinking he was only being friendly. As Dame Nellie Melba sang later that night, Anna left the party and returned to the servants quarters to take something for her headache. Mr Green follows her and offers her something stronger, which she refuses. He then suddenly tells her he thinks she wants more excitement in her life and tells her he refuses to believe that she could be happy with a cripple like Mr Bates. She tells Mr Green that she is very happy and that she would like him to move out the way so she could return to the party. He refuses to move and when Anna tried to get past him, he hits her multiple times and drags her into one of the other rooms, where he rapes her. Mr Green then returns to the party, leaving Anna downstairs pretending as though nothing had happened.Mrs Hughes later finds Anna crying in her room while hiding behind the shelf. Mrs Hughes quickly realises what has happened because of Anna's torn dress and cuts and bruises. Anna begs her not to tell anyone what had happened, saying that because she trusts her she would like her help to tidy up before someone else sees her. Mrs Hughes tells Anna that perhaps they should tell Mr Bates what had happened, but Anna refuses because she thinks him to be the last person who should ever find out. She is worried that he would dangerously harm Mr Green in anger, and as an ex-felon, be sent back to prison. When Anna had tidied up, Mr Bates catches her sneaking out. He sees Anna is distressed and wonders why she was hurt. Anna lies, telling him she has taken a pill and fainted, hitting her head in the process. Mr Green then appears and bids goodnight to them both, with Anna reluctantly replying to him. She then tells Mr Bates she would prefer to walk home alone, ignoring him as he tries to stop her. As she continues pushing him away, he is convinced he has done something horribly wrong to make her avoid him, to the point of moving away from their cottage back to the servant's quarters in Downton Abbey. She feels she is now "soiled" and for that reason she feels she cannot let her husband touch her. When Mrs Hughes asks Anna what she will do if she is with child, to her horror Anna says she will kill herself (Mrs Hughes insists she will not hear of it). However, her husband, fearing Anna no longer loves him, overhears her speaking to Mrs Hughes and learns the truth after threatening to leave (Mrs Hughes felt it would be the end of Anna if John left). Anna then is confronted by John, who reaffirms that he loves her more than ever now, and that she is not soiled in his eyes, but holier. She embraces him in tears.
Anna soon moves back into the cottage, and tries to move on, insisting she wants to make new memories and does not consider herself a victim. But John is not determined to move on, and as she feared, he thinks of "murder" when he remembers what happened to her. Slowly, their relationship begins to mend. They go out again after a long time of not doing so, and discuss Mary's suitors, including Charles Blake (whom Mary originally had a distaste for but began to grow more fond of).
Mary learns what happened to Anna (but not who was responsible) when Mrs Hughes insisted John needed to be with Anna when Lord Grantham was going to America and see his in-laws (he took Thomas Barrow instead). Later Green returns with Lord Gillingham; he tells Mrs Hughes he and Anna were both drunk and she was to blame as much as himself. Mrs Hughes knows and sternly tells Green that Anna was not to blame - and re-blames Green alone for the rape. Green later reveals, at the servant's table downstairs, and with Bates present, that he (Green) went downstairs to seek some quiet to excape Nellie Melba's singing opera. When Bates hears Green's casual remarks he then immediately makes the timing-connection between Anna's search downstairs for headache medication, Green's leaving the opera singing, and the rape taking place - all happening in the same few moments.
Eventually, Anna tells Mary who was responsible, but she swears her to secrecy because she fears her husband will find out it was Green, and then do something terrible. She mentions being frightened every time her husband and Green are in the same room. Despite Anna's protests, Mary eventually tells her she is going to ask Lord Gillingham to dismiss his valet without telling why. Anna is nervous about this, but when Mary later relays news from Lord Gillingham at the bazaar that Green has died, Anna is relieved that a lot of people saw him fall into the road and get run over, as it appears her husband was not involved. Anna later asks her husband if he would risk the life they have put together. He assures her he would not.Grantham House for the London season and for Rose's debut. While in London, Anna gives Mrs Hughes one of her husband's old coats, in which she finds a ticket revealing that he went to London from York. Anna does not suspect John might have in fact murdered Green. Mrs Hughes tells Anna there was nothing of importance in John's old coat when she asks. Mrs Hughes tells Lady Mary about the ticket, and insists they say nothing for both John's and Anna's sake. Mary is at first uneasy about this. But after John retrieves a love letter from the Prince of Wales to Freda Dudley Ward stolen by Terence Sampson, Mary burns the ticket. She and Anna discuss the whole situation. When Mary remarks that she doubts it will be the last time the Prince is in such a situation, Anna reminds Mary that the next one won't be the fault of the Crawley family (because Rose's joking of the letter led to Sampson suspecting its existence). Mary then asks Anna to tell John the family is grateful to him. John and Anna later go to the seaside with the other servants.
Anna reluctantly helps Mary prepare for her tryst with Lord Gillingham by packing her suitcases and purchasing birth control for her. Furthermore, Sergeant Willis and Inspector Vyner question her and her husband on the events surrounding Alex Green's suspicious death as there was a witness. Then she and Mrs Hughes pondered over Mr Bates's trip to London, York, on the day of Mr Green's death, both were suspicious and Anna questions her husband about it and what he knew of Mr Green's death and her rape. Mr Bates reveals he has known ever since Mr Green visited the abbey and that he spent the day in York and that he wanted to murder Mr Green for what he did to his wife but chose not since he would be hanged. Then she was ordered by Inspector Vyner to come to Scotland Yard, her husband insisted upon coming with her where they learn that Mr Green raped other women, who were afraid to come forward and Anna was placed alongside those women for a trial inspection. Then she was let go, however after helping Lady Mary into her night attire, Anna was called down stairs with Mrs Hughes who reveals that Mr Vyner is here to arrest her as the witness has identified her as being near Mr Green just before he fell. Despite protestations made by both Lady Mary, Bates, and Lord Grantham, Anna is arrested.
Lady Mary and Mr Bates visit Anna separately along with the Crawley family's lawyer Mr Murray to help get her out. Then Mr Bates, in an attempt to get his wife bailed out, confesses to the murder of Mr Green and decamps to Ireland leaving letters for both Mr Carson and Lord Grantham. Anna is partially released and Molseley and Baxter wander around York and find enough evidence to clear Mr Bates's name and he and Anna are happily united.
Still on parole, Anna continues her work at Downton. Sergeant Willis visits her and Bates to tell them that a woman has confessed to the murder of Green. He visits again to tell them that a witness has confirmed the statement's legitimacy, and so the Green case has closed, therefore ending the three year rift between Anna and Bates.
Anna suffers her second miscarriage, and she fears that she cannot bear a child. She confides this to Lady Mary, who takes her to Dr Ryder in order to find a solution. A short while later after the visit, she becomes pregnant and decides to go with Dr Ryder's solution.
Anna helps Mrs Hughes try one of Cora's old coats, with permission from Lady Mary. When Cora unexpectedly comes into the room, she is furious with Anna and Mrs Hughes, and also with Mrs Patmore who was also present. They leave Cora's room embarrassed. When Lady Mary finds out about this from Anna, she forces Cora to apologize to Mrs Hughes.