Bequest is the story of a gold bracelet containing a miniature of Queen Victoria by Guigilomo Faija, inscribed 'from Victoria R, May 1849'. An heirloom from my mother Bettina Mendl who fled Vienna in 1938 ahead of the Nazi occupation losing everything; an extensive villa, vineyards, a castle in the Tyrol, the Ankerbrot factory, and a stable of prize winning tournament horses. She fled to Australia with an English five pound note in her pocket. She survived the war and retrieved the bracelet and discovered its story.
In 1848 waves of rebellion claimed the Royal Houses of Europe one by one, leaving Queen Victoria and her family in the gravest of danger.
The young Queen pregnant with her sixth child, survived two assassination attempts in two days.
Now Anna, a young Austrian maid in the Royal nursery, must undertake a secret mission to save the lives of the precious children in her care.
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All mothers have their secrets …
Born into a wealthy Austrian family at the close of the nineteenth century, Bettina Mendl lived through the worst of the twentieth.
An ambitious equestrian, she declined the opportunity to represent Germany at the 1936 Olympic Games; a snub for which she would pay dearly.
In 1938, SS Commander Otto Wachter confiscated her extensive estate of vineyards, stables, and castles, and moved into her mansion; the Villa Mendl. With five pound in her pocket, Bettina arrived in Australia and fled into the outback, seeking refuge and anonymity and working as a land girl.
Joe McDuff; a station manager, won her heart, asking no questions and together they forged a new life; a home and two daughters.
Ten years later, into this precious refuge a letter arrives … a summons to return.
The glittering world of opulence and violence from which she had fled now lures Bettina back with promises of restoring her birthright.
And so, two young bush princesses find themselves in a whirling fairy-tale world of taffeta, silk, rules and hidden protocols.
Who is Bettina? An heiress? A Viennese socialite? Or a spy who helped dozens of Jews flee Hitler?
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When 'A Story Dreamt Long Ago' was translated into German in 2016, by Christine Lier, Austria welcomed the book with great warmth.
The Mendl family were celebrated members of pre-war Austrian society and there was great public interest in their story of survival.
This book was awarded the Austria Prize for Services to Literature jointly awarded by University of Sydney and Macquarie University.
Phyllis McDuff was born in the outback, in Hillston, western New South Wales. Her early years included extensive family travel through Europe, Africa and Asia. She was educated at; Brigidine College in Randwick, Sydney University, the University of New England and the University of Queensland.
Her career training horses was based on instruction received at the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna.
Phyllis has lived on the outskirts of Brisbane, Queensland since 1965.
Phyllis has recently been awarded the Austria Prize for Services to German Literature; jointly awarded by the Austrian Consulate, University of Sydney and Macquarie University.