We’re just a few hours away from King Charles’s coronation and in truth many of us are less prepared for the three-day weekend ahead than might be expected, given quite how long this national spectacle has been in the works. If, like me, you’re still not entirely clear on what is happening and why, this handy guide will be worth studying before you settle down to a slice of coronation quiche to watch the show.

And despite the months of planning on their part, the royals left it until quite late in the day to tell us that we were being “invited” to pledge our allegiance to the king by reciting the Homage of the People in front of our TVs during the theatrics. Little wonder they kept it quiet since the idea hasn’t gone down particularly well with the general public. I’ll watch for the capes and tassels, sure, but swear an oath to the monarch and all his heirs? Probably not, thanks. A linguist wrote in to inform us that while the pledge is laden with “quasi-magical accoutrements of a grand performative speech”, it’s written in such a vague way as to be utterly meaningless. You can take that as good news or bad, depending on your disposition, but the reasons why are pretty interesting.

While this element of the ceremony has tested our patience, it is also fair to say that Charles has made some important adjustments to proceedings to reflect the changing times. His oath has been amended over the years to reflect the UK’s new relationship with the nations it once colonised. Also notable for its absence is the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond, which has been removed from Camilla’s crown, because of disputes about whether it should be returned to India. This history of the interplay between coronations and British imperial culture shows just how much has changed over the years.

When he’s not busy being crowned, keen horticulturalist Charles is legendary for his belief in talking to his plants to keep them healthy. And we learnt this week that this might not be quite as batty as it sounds. An expert writes here that thinking like a plant is the optimum strategy for taking care of one in this list of tips for budding botanists. Scientists have also been experimenting with listening to what plants themselves have to say, discovering along the way that some emit a high-pitched clicking sound when they’re thirsty. Who can’t relate to that?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will no doubt be pleased by the national distraction that is the coronation after this week’s local election results. The less time spent poring over those results, the better, as far as he’s concerned. While the Tories lost seats across councils, Labour made important gains in areas containing marginal parliamentary seats. All the usual caveats about low turnout obviously apply but if these regions are turning towards the opposition, it could become the biggest party at the next general election.

It was simply lovely to receive a news alert yesterday when the World Health Organization declared an end to the global COVID-19 emergency. I think that’s a chapter in recent history we’ll all be very happy to close. That said, the disease still lingers and evolves, even if it isn’t quite the beast it once was. In classic COVID style, a new variant has emerged just to remind us not to get too relaxed. It’s called Arcturus, and while it’s not something to worry too much about, we’ve learned in these past few years that it pays to stay informed. So here’s all you need to know about the strain.

Finally, a special request: if you value the articles we’ve brought you this week, please consider making a donation to The Conversation. Even just a small amount can help us continue producing evidenced-based journalism right up until the next coronation.

Laura Hood

Politics Editor, Assistant Editor

The then Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at the Big Jubilee Lunch, celebrating his mother’s 70 years on the throne. Stefan Rousseau/PA images/Alamy

King Charles III coronation: what to expect this coronation weekend

Pauline Maclaran, Royal Holloway University of London

The packed schedule is a chance for the new king to remind the British public why the monarchy is valuable.

I solemnly swear… One-image photography / Alamy Stock Photo

A language expert on why the ‘oath of allegiance’ to King Charles III fails the test for being an oath

Monika Schmid, University of York

The oath of allegiance is meaningless on several counts.

King George V and Queen Mary in Bombay before the Delhi durbar to mark the king’s coronation in 1911. PA Images/Alamy

How British imperial history shaped Charles III’s coronation ceremony

Sean Lang, Anglia Ruskin University

The coronation will have echoes of empire, but represents an important stage in the modern monarchy’s move away from its shadow.

“Hey Rish, it’s me. Just calling to say soz about Swindon.” Alamy/PA/Stefan Rousseau

Local elections: Labour gains suggest the tide has turned in many marginal constituencies

Ben Williams, University of Salford

Not a knockout blow but important gains for the opposition.


Arcturus: what to know about the new COVID variant, omicron XBB.1.16

Manal Mohammed, University of Westminster

This variant seems to be causing a new symptom not commonly seen with earlier COVID strains.

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