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Dutch King and Queen get WA history lesson

AAP logoAAP 30/10/2016 By Greg Roberts

Proving that Australians love a royal couple as much as anyone, the Dutch King and Queen have been eagerly welcomed on a visit to mark the 400th anniversary of explorer Dirk Hartog's landing in WA.

The glamorous couple enjoyed cheers from dozens of supporters wearing orange, the colour of the royal family, and waving flags, including Dutch expats, tourists and schoolchildren from the Perth Dutch school Language One.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were in Fremantle to unveil the 400-year-old Dirk Hartog dish, which is on loan from the Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

The pewter plate was left on Dirk Hartog Island in 1616 to mark his landing, more than 150 years before Captain James Cook and later the First Fleet landed on the east coast.

Unlike the English, the Dutch decided not to stay.

King Willem-Alexander is the second youngest monarch in Europe at 49 and his 45-year-old wife is a former investment banker who hails from Argentina.

The couple were given a brief lesson from Fremantle historian Mike Lefroy along Fremantle harbour before being officially welcomed by Premier Colin Barnett and his wife, Lyn.

"The Hartog dish is the oldest relic of any European presence in Australia ... 81 years later Willem de Vlamingh came along, named the Swan River where we are today, and then in a remarkable act of navigation found his way up to Shark Bay and Dirk Hartog Island to recover the Hartog dish and replaced it with his own dish," he said.

"In between we had the extraordinary voyage and wreck of the Batavia . . . a story of shipwreck, mutiny, mass murder, of executions, of escape and rescue. It is clearly the Hollywood blockbuster that is yet to be made."

When Captain Cook was mentioned, King Willem-Alexander responded: "Who's he?", drawing many laughs.

One of the sights King Willem-Alexander encountered at Fremantle's Shipwreck Galleries on Monday was a 19-year-old picture of himself from his last visit.

The king was a 30-year-old prince in the photo, which captures him diving at the wreckage of the Dutch ship Batavia off WA's coast in 1997.

The couple earlier received an Aboriginal Welcome to Country at Government House and are in Australia for a week.

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