Genius meets royalty on Nobel Day

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustav handed gold medals and diplomas to this year's Nobel laureates for literature, economics and the sciences on Sunday, with US winners scooping all but one of the honours.

Following the award ceremony at Stockholm’s Consert Hall, the laureates, their friends and families joined the Swedish royal family and other dignitaries at the City Hall for the Nobel Banquet.

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was the only non-American on the all-male list of winners at the ceremony in Stockholm, taking the literature prize.

The prize for chemistry went to Roger Kornberg of the US. He attended his first Nobel ceremony in 1959, aged 12, when his father Arthur received the Nobel prize for medicine. Arthur Kornberg duly accompanied his son at Sunday’s prize-giving.

John Mather and George Smoot shared the prize for physics for their work on the origins of the universe, while the medicine award was also shared, this time by the geneticists Andrew Fire and George Mello.

The other US laureate was Edmund Phelps, who received the Nobel Prize for Economics for his research on inflation and growth.

As well as the medals and diplomas handed over by the king, each prize bears a cheque worth 10 million kronor, which is split in the case of joint winners.

King Carl Gustaf handed this year’s winners their medals in front of 1,500 guests and a live television audience. As is the case every year, the flower arrangements were donated by the Italian town of San Remo, where Alfred Nobel spent the last years of his life.

No expense was spared for the occasion, with some 13,000 flowers decking out the Consert Hall and a further 10,000 in the City Hall’s Blue Room, where the banquet took place.

At 7pm the royal family and the other guests of honour paraded into the banquet. Following another tradition, the menu for the dinner was a closely-guarded secret until the party began. The only thing that was certain was that the ingredients would be taken from the “classic Nordic larder” and “cooked in a modern style”.

In contrast to the first banquet, in the Mirror Room at the Grand Hotel in 1901 where 113 male guests were present, around 1,250 guests – of both sexes – enjoyed Sunday’s celebration. The whole Swedish royal family were in attendance with the exception of 91 year old Princess Lillian, who will only be at the prize ceremony.

Queen Silvia had, as in previous years, the chairman of the Nobel Committee, Marcus Storch, beside her at the table, while Crown Princess Victoria sat next to the speaker of the Swedish parliament, Per Westerberg.

Princess Madeleine was placed between the winner of the physics prize, George Smoot, and prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, while Prince Carl Philip will sat opposite the literature laureate Orhan Pamuk.

The author had Princess Christina on his right side, according to the official seating plan. Craig Mello, the winner of this year’s Nobel prize for medicine, sat on the other side of the princess.

Chemistry prize winner Roger Kornberg, who is attending the Nobel banquet for the second time – his father won the same prize in 1959 and 12 year old Roger joined him at the party – was placed opposite the other physics winner, John Mather, who in turn sat beside the queen.

Liberal Party leader and education minister Lars Leijonborg travelled back to Sweden for the occasion from Florida – although he had to leave before he could see the astronaut Christer Fuglesang’s ascent into space.

Culture minister Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth and foreign minister Carl Bildt were the other government representatives on the 25 metre table of honour.

The theme for this year’s performance was dance, under the direction of Kenneth Kvarnström, the artistic director of Dansens Hus.