Sophie Heawood: I vote for the 'royals for rehab' party

Charles and co need to learn to be normal
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The Independent Online

So the secret life of Prince Charles has got him into trouble again. Once again, our future king has communicated something in private that has found its way to his public, leaving the big C with egg on his face.

We must be thankful for small mercies, though. Firstly, knowing the Prince's proclivities, that egg is probably organic, free range and fair trade. And secondly, this faux pas only has a consequence of a few billion missing quid, and not anything "really" bad, like that time he was recorded on the phone to Camilla saying things about tampons. Man, that was embarrassing.

(Or remember that rumour that when Princess Diana was going through a very bulimic phase, her sensitive husband asked her why she "didn't just cut out the middle man altogether and throw the food straight down the toilet"? Or that time he didn't realise the BBC microphones could hear him and he leant over on his skis, taking offence at the royal reporter Nicholas Witchell, and muttered to his son William: "These bloody people. I can't bear that man. I mean, he's so awful, he really is." Just what has Prince Charles got against gingers anyway? Of course, we all remember James Hewitt, but I'm sure he was more of a strawberry blond. )

It's funny how it's the Duke of Edinburgh who is the one so regularly accused of foot-in-mouth syndrome when his son Charles has obviously inherited the gene just as badly.

But this time it's not just a verbal gaffe – this time it's serious.

Our first in line to the throne sent a private letter to the Qatari royal family to beg them to reconsider their property development plans for the Chelsea Barracks in London, a site he apparently loves very much and didn't want to see ruined. And when they subsequently pulled out of the project, satisfying his demands but breaching their contract, a $3bn deal was lost, and now there's a court hearing and all sorts of hullabaloo.

As it happens, I'm pretty much on his side about this development, but the big question is whether he should have felt he could act above the law. To which I say, um, are you kidding me?

You're asking if a man raised in a rotation of castles and palaces, told that he would one day be king of all the land because of a dubious family history involving Saxons and Goths and a special shout-out from God, a 62-year-old man whose staff still lower their elbows into his bathwater for him, believes he has to abide by the same rules as everyone else?

Erm. Guess what. Of course he doesn't. And neither does the other royal family he was talking to. Royals grow up in a world where words like primogeniture and genuflect are not just something you memorise for a spelling test, but are in fact real, and taking place inside a massive hulking pile of property near you now.

It is 2010! We have video phones! We have flights on commercial spaceships taking bookings! And yet our royal family not only still exists, but still utters words such as "the Dukedom of Albany".

And all those banquets for visiting kings and queens from other lands mean that of course Charles has all the other princes around the world on speed dial. These people are united in the knowledge that they remain the few humans in the world still imbued with the knowledge of which finger to wrap around the fourth fork from the left during a third course that involves both lobster and dairy.

What these people need is integration – a programme of rehabilitation to help royals to mix in normal society so they can stop doing dodgy deals with each other.

And the best way to allow this to happen is to let the royals stop being royal.

They are just other people – let them go and do other things. Let's have a republic. It is time.

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