They call it “white tie” but many also wear their honors, ribbons or brooches or long chains with giant gold medals.
The most festooned among male guests look like ancestral Vikings with trophies of plunder.
Meanwhile, back at Stockholm’s huge palace, I was just getting up to the border between France and Norway when first Al Gore (in my blog) and last night’s Nordita Nobel dinner party (in real life) broke off my narrative.
Nobel events come with extra one-ups of high protocol, strict and careful ordering of where everyone sits or stands and with whom one parades.
Once you get to the palace, the protocol deepens and thickens, as if layers of old marble had been wrapped up in more layers of tapestry.
Just to mention the most intimidating example: the end of your evening is signaled by loud, loud crashes from ceremonial walking sticks banged on the floor by elegant men in fine uniforms. It’s the signal for honored but non-royal guests to flee quickly back to the non-royal side of the room so their Majesties can bow solitary farewell.
There are few things more comforting, in such an atmosphere of does-the-whole-world-except-me-know-these-rules, than being escorted to dinner by the hugely and handsomely ribboned-and-medaled Norwegian Ambassador Odd L. Fosseidbråten, someone who really does probably know all the rules.
And sitting between two ambassadors feels even safer, most especially between the contrasting but both very charming ambassadors of Norway and France. (This handsome Viking is neither of those two ambassadors.)
Both Odd Fosseidbråten and French counterpart His Excellency Monsieur Denis Delbourg are near the end of their terms as ambassador. (“Past my sell-by date” was the smiling description from one of them.) It was fascinating to hear each one’s warm perspective on Sweden intertwined with historical ties to his own country. But diplomatic careers don’t keep you too long in the one lovely place. The fresh ambitions when one arrives somewhere new are a precious resource to both host and source country. Over time, it becomes hard not to settle down on your laurels. Meanwhile, young diplomats need their own chance to shine.
So now I do think I know what is the diplomat’s “job.” It is to gather up knowledge, will, and empathy so that you can act strongly for your own country while recognizing and valuing what will be important to somebody’s different country. Of course nobody I met said anything like this (and if they had would have framed it in less-flowered language.)
I am just trying to interpret the metadata.
Now it’s time to get ready for tonight’s Green Frog ball.