TORONTO -- When "Randy" Prince Andrew and his consort, the "Naughty, Naughty" Fergie -- as People magazine described both the former Sarah Ferguson and Princess Diana this week -- come to this staid city today they are to be welcomed by both a 21-gun artillery salute and the scrutinizing gaze of a tall black man who is Queen Elizabeth II's official representative in Toronto.
That would be Lincoln Alexander, the 65-year-old appointed to the post by the queen two years ago on the recommendation of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, which gave Alexander the distinction of being the first black Canadian ever to represent the crown.
A symbol of the British monarchy's continuing role in modern-day Canada, the position of lieutenant governor of Ontario is an office surrounded by pomp and ceremony with a grueling schedule of tea parties, cricket matches and inspections of the various royal regimental guards here.
The vice regal, who also served as the first black member of the Canadian Parliament and was, for a brief period, the first black member of a federal cabinet in Canada, describes himself a man who grew up quickly. The son of West Indian e'migre's -- a railroad porter and a hotel maid -- Alexander spent a period of his boyhood in Harlem, hanging around street corners. His current position, he quickly concedes, has changed his life. Among other things, he has lost what he calls the freedom to "boo-ga-loo in the middle of the night."
"I represent Her Majesty the Queen and therefore I have to govern myself accordingly in everything I do -- the way I talk, dress," Alexander says as he talks about adjustments he has had to make. "So, the lightness that I used to be quite attracted to is gone. You have to stand tall so the people can respect you . . . I think people would be very upset if I was to be very loose," he says. "That's one way you can destroy the office. I think people want someone to look up to."
Though he does not say so, he could have been talking about the British monarchy. The high jinks of the young royals have included Diana's purported suggestion to Fergie, "Let's get drunk," and their giggly jabbing of gentry in the behinds with umbrellas at Ascot last month. Royal-watchers in London regard the 25-day tour of Canada by Prince Andrew and Sarah, which includes appearances in Toronto, Niagara Falls, the Canadian prairies and a canoe trip in the wilds of the Arctic, as a test, as one put it, of whether "these younger royals" can carry out their responsibilities as members of the royal family.
For Lincoln Alexander, the visit may seem part of a day's work. Last year, he attended 849 functions, regretted 865 others and received 12,088 guests in his chambers. As the ceremonial head of state, he opens the provincial legislature and can dissolve it. He must grant "royal assent" to all executive orders and legislation passed by the elected representatives, but he has never denied approval and it has been only on very rare occasions that his counterparts in the nine other provinces have exercised their powers.
"I can say no at any time but I better make sure that I know what I'm doing," he says.
Alexander is a man who life and circumstance have forced into many roles.
One evening not long after his appointment in September 1985, he showed up at a soul-food restaurant, the Underground Railroad, in downtown Toronto. The owner switched off the jazz that night and played Scottish bagpipe music, but there remained a striking incongruity in the tableau of the queen's representative and a beribboned aide-de-camp in the sober all-black party of about a dozen who dined decorously on barbecued spareribs, collard greens and southern fried chicken.
A few weeks later, he appeared at a large achievement awards banquet in Toronto for blacks from across Canada. After all solemnly raised their glasses in a toast to the queen, Alexander's brief remarks brought laughter. "If I weren't the lieutenant governor, I'd say 'right on, baby,' " he said, "but, because I am and I can't say that, I will say that I am delighted to be with you this evening and bring you greetings from Her Majesty the Queen."
Recalling those comments in a recent interview at his sumptuous official quarters in the provincial legislative building here, he says, "I said it but then I took it back. In the old days I would have said it and carried on." But, he says, he believes that if he must at all times act "dignified" in his office, that does not mean he must be pompous and stuffy or forget who he is.
When he had an audience with Queen Elizabeth in London last summer, he said he told her that during his five-year tenure he wanted to encourage youth and try to improve race relations.
He has visited 40 schools in the province so far this year. Whether it's kindergarten or college, he says, the message is pretty much the same.
"You have to work hard, you can't be discouraged. You have to believe in yourself and you don't need any crutches. You don't need any alcohol and drugs. I also tell the blacks when I single them out, when they ask me a question, I say, 'You see that chap sitting beside you? He's white and you're black. You have to be three times as good as he is. That's the name of the game. When you live in a country of 25 million people and you're half of 1 percent, that's obvious.' "
Alexander was born in downtown Toronto and grew up here in the '20s and '30s, a time, he says, "when you weren't wanted, black wasn't beautiful and you had to stay back. The men were restricted to the railroad and the women were restricted to the kitchen, or somebody's maid."
He and his younger brother Hugh were the only black children in the schools they attended. "That never bothered me. If you messed with me, I'd punch you in the mouth. You gain respect that way." His father, originally from St. Vincent, spent most of his time away working on the Canadian Pacific Railway. When Lincoln Alexander Sr. was at home, he would pile his tips on the bedroom dresser as proof of the rewards charm could bring. Alexander says he cannot recall any lengthy discussions about race in his home other than the admonitions of his Jamaica-born mother Mae Rose that he had to get an education in order to succeed.
In 1937, when he was 15, his parents separated and his mother took him and his brother to Harlem, where she had a sister. Harlem, with its gangs and fiefdoms, produced a certain culture shock. Studious and well-mannered, he would hang out on 125th Street with groups with names like the Crescents and the Capitals, but unlike their members he went to school every day and stayed away from fights.
"I remember the time a guy stole my hat," he says, recalling an incident that has been experienced at one time or another by many studious black boys. "My mother had bought me a gray porkpie. Straight roll. Pride of my life. I went to a dance, some guy took it off my head. He said, 'This hat's now mine.' He said, 'Take it back.' Well, I didn't want to. So I ran all the way home with tears in my eyes . . . Well, that's Harlem."
There was another incident he recalls vividly. At a part-time job at a bowling alley in the Bronx, he began teasing a fellow black youth from Georgia about his home state. "I'll never forget that. He took me to task even though that guy couldn't walk down the main street of his town and even though he was treated like dirt there. He told me, 'That's my state and don't you dare criticize it.' We almost came to blows. I couldn't understand it then but I can understand it now."
He says he can understand it now because it is similar to the way he feels about Canada, despite the genteel racism he has encountered here. "Oh yeah, this is my country. It's not perfect but I don't know of any perfect country."
After Canada went to war in 1939, he came back and signed up for the Royal Canadian Air Force. He rose to the rank of corporal while serving as a wireless operator at various posts in Canada. After the war he attended McMaster University in the industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario, where he met his wife Yvonne, a fourth-generation citizen of the city and part of the small black community of about 500, most of whom worked as bellhops, janitors and maids.
Finding it difficult to get a white-collar job because of racial discrimination after finishing college with a BA degree in political economy, he went to Osgoode Hall law school in Toronto, where he graduated in 1953 in the top quarter of his class of 250. He phoned a Hamilton law firm to apply for a position advertised on a school bulletin board. The partner who spoke with him was encouraging, Alexander recalls, until he delicately inquired, " 'Would it matter to you, sir, if I was to tell you that I'm black?'
"Well, that's when the phone went silent. He gave me the interview but then he told me, 'The vast majority of our clients are English, Irish and Scottish and they'd resent you.' I said, 'Well, give me a chance.' Well, no, he wouldn't give me a chance but then he offered me $5,000 to set up -- without knowing me, and he said that he would refer business to me and I told him to shove it. But that guy had to come to me later on when he wanted something because I became a member of Parliament. I became a pretty potent political figure. I wasn't angry. I just got even. My office was above his in the long run."
Alexander opened a general law practice with a white Hamilton lawyer who was also a city alderman and organizer for the Progressive Conservative Party. Through him, Alexander met former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, who urged him to run for Parliament from the city. In his first try, in 1965, he came in second in a field of eight, contesting a seat representing a diverse, predominantly white district.
The only hint of race came after his nomination, when he said in a modest acceptance speech, "I'm glad my forefathers thought of coming to this great country of ours so I could have a future here." He never stopped running and won when he was on the ballot again in 1968. Alexander was one of only four urban Tories in the country to win against the tide of "Trudeaumania" that swept Canada that year.
For most of his 12 years in the House of Commons, Alexander sat on Opposition benches, where he was the bull-voiced immigration and labor critic. He took to the task of criticizing Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and his cabinet with gusto. He would point his finger across the aisle and shout, "I want the minister to come clean -- no bamboozling or flimflammery!" The Canadian Press wire service once noted, "Not only was he the first to accuse the government of flimflam, he also managed to use it as noun, verb, adjective or where else it came in handy in a sentence."
For nine months, when the Progressive Conservative Party came to power under then-leader Joe Clark, Alexander served as minister of labor, a position he said then had exceeded his "wildest dreams." In 1980 he left Parliament to become chairman of the troubled Ontario Workmen's Compensation Board, which he would later describe as a "no-win job." In neither of the two posts did he leave any enduring legacy. Newspaper columnists and editorials criticized him for trying too hard to be a friend of both business and labor, pleasing neither.
His contribution, which indirectly he seems to acknowledge, has been as a trailblazer -- "the first black." When he was named lieutenant governor, right-wing newspaper columnist Peter Worthington wrote, "Some rather snidely suggest that his appointment is tokenism -- which it is. But so what? It is also symbolic of the direction Canada is heading, where for some years immigration has been mostly from 'non-traditional' countries, meaning the Third World instead of Europe . . . Linc Alexander is the Jackie Robinson of Canadian politics. It's a proud moment for both him and Canada."
Today's arrival of the duke and duchess of York, apart from the gossip sheets, is also a reminder that Canada has long held somewhat ambivalent feelings about its ties to monarchy. When Queen Elizabeth II visited Quebec in 1964, French Canadian radicals who regarded her as a symbol of English domination booed her and battled club-swinging police. Trudeau once said there was something about the monarch that makes "all democrats cringe." He attempted to wean Canadians away from the institution and succeeded in gaining Canada's constitutional independence from Great Britain.
But Trudeau encountered vigorous opposition when he tried to tamper with the institution of the monarchy and backed off. Strictly speaking, Elizabeth is the Queen of Canada. To become a Canadian citizen one must, first, swear to "be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty" and then vow to abide by the laws of Canada. Her photograph is in government offices and her likeness on Canadian currency.
Many Canadians say they prefer to maintain the connection because it is a feature that distinguishes them from Americans. Devout monarchists and Canadian constitutional scholars also argue that it serves the useful function of separating the ceremonial head of state from the position of head of government, keeping the politicians in their place.
Mulroney's aides say the Alexander appointment was intended as a gesture to the new, "visible minorities" now coming into Canada. Alexander says that out of hundreds of letters about the appointment he has received, only two were negative. One, from a member of the "White Guard," an openly racist group, said it was improper for a black man to occupy the position; another objected to the fact that Alexander's son had married a white woman.
Alexander says love of the monarchical tradition is strongest in the rural areas of the province.
"When I arrive in small-town Ontario," he says, "everybody, I mean everybody, is out, the councillors, the mayor, the warden, the Boy Scouts, the legion, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and it's just a magnificent display of loyalty to the crown."
Researcher Nancy Kroeker contributed to this report.