There was a strong turnout from Sweden’s royal family, with King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia joined by their children, Crown Princess Victoria, Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip. The king’s sister, Princess Christina, also attended.
Most of this year’s prizewinners attended the banquet, with the exceptions of Literature Prize winner Doris Lessing and Economics Prize winner Leonid Hurwic, who were absent due to old age and illness. A second banquet for the Peace Prize winners was held as usual in Oslo.
The event’s eighty most prominent guests sat at the 25-metre top table in the middle of the Blue Hall, the City Hall’s banqueting hall. The table was decorated with flowers and leaves shaped as cakes and puddings, designed to resemble the cake party thrown by Pippi Longstocking, whose creator Astrid Lindgren was born 100 years ago this year.
Guests took their seats by 7pm, in time to watch the prizewinners and the royal family walk down the steps into the hall.
The 3-and-a-half hour dinner saw Crown Princess Victoria conversing with French Physics Prize winner Albert Fert. Fert’s wife, Marie-José, was seated next to the king. Queen Silvia, as usual, sat next to Marcus Storch, chairman of the Nobel Foundation.
Princess Madeleine sat between Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Peter Grünberg, who shared the Physics Prize with Fert.
For many of the people watching the party on television – last year saw 1.3 million people in Sweden tune in – the focus was less on academic achievement and more on the dresses, particularly those of the royal ladies.
Queen Silvia wore a striking red pleated gown by Japanese designer Gnyuki Torimaru, set off with Queen Sofia´s diamond tiara and a diamond cross from the Karl XIV Johan collection.
Crown Princess Victoria wore a black satin skirt with an understated chiffon top, created by Swede Pär Engsheden. She also wore the “Karl Johan Tiara” with six diamond bows. Princess Madeleine bordeaux-red velvet gown was designed by Swede Linda Nurk, which she accompanied with a pear-shaped pearl earrings and a tiara.
For the men, the dress code was more simple: white tie and tails, although the king, Prince Carl Philip and some other male guests came adorned in almost enough orders of chivalry to compete for attention with the tiaras of the ladies.
The dinner guests and the TV audience were entertained by a performance by 40 dancers from the Royal Swedish Ballet.
The menu consisted of a Lobster aspic, followed by a main course of ‘young cockerel with cockerel sausage, accompanied by almond potato and celery root terrine.’ This was wrapped up with a ‘raspberry and blackcurrant parfait on beds of pistachio, with vanilla ice cream’.
Before the guest set off for the dance floor, the laureates addressed the hall. For most, it was an opportunity to thank past mentors and family. Albert Fert also thanked Ingmar Bergman; he said the “inaccessibility” of Bergman’s genius was one reason for him abandoning film-making at university and going into physics instead.
Chemistry Prize winner Gerhard Ertl thanked colleagues from throughout his long career, and quoted Goethe, saying “There is no greater joy than studying nature.”
Medicine Prize Winner Oliver Smithies thanked teachers, including his mathematics teacher at grammar school in Yorkshire, his flying instructor and his Oxford tutor.
Economics Prize Winner Eric S. Maskin thanked the Nobel Foundation itself for giving his research into mechanism design “notoriety worthy of an Elvis Presley.”
“Isn’t it remarkable that, for one week a year, that kind of attention is focused not just on economics, but on physics, chemistry, medicine, and literature,” Maskin said.