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. She has been awarded the Austria Prize for Services to German Literature; jointly awarded by the Austrian Consulate, University of Sydney and Macquarie University.
She has written three books: Villa Mendl, A Story Dreamt Long Ago and her latest novel, Bequest.
Bequest is the story of a gold bracelet containing a miniature of Queen Victoria by Guigilomo Faija, inscribed 'from Victoria R, May 1849'. The bracelet was an heirloom from Phyllis' 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. Bettina 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.