Previous medal holders include the late former President Johannes Rau, current Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Gloria Princess of Thurn and Taxis.
But this year the gala, one of the opening events of the carnival season, was criticised by some for being too tough on Guttenberg.
When he said in January he would be accepting the medal in person, he was embroiled in the scandal around the death of a cadet on the Gorch Fock naval training ship, although he said the ongoing tense situation in Afghanistan prevented him from attending.
The medal citation said Guttenberg was being awarded for the, “courage of contradiction and acrobatic creative thinking for healthy common sense.”
Guttenberg’s younger brother Philipp did attend and made a speech which described the minister as a “relentlessly swaggering super-baron,” and Germany’s favourite bore, whose vanity prompts him to iron sharp creases into his army camouflage trousers.
Referring to the current plagiarism row, in which the Defence Minister has been accused of copying portions of his doctoral dissertation from other sources without crediting them, Guttenberg’s brother described himself as a mere copy before launching into a satirical speech which included references to his brother’s snow-white, Teflon skin and his lack of talent at playing the piano.
“This is a rally nasty campaign of envy against the minister,” one woman at the gala said. A high-ranking carnival functionary also said he was outraged, describing the evening as a “manhunt against a highly qualified politician who does not shy away from accepting responsibility.”
Public broadcaster ARD will air the gala on Monday evening.