A spinet is a small harpsichord with oblique strings. When placed in a box, without legs, it is known as a virginal. This instrument, popularly known as 'Queen Elizabeth's virginals' closely resembles a spinet made in 1571 by Benedictus Florianus of Venice (now in the Museum of Musical Instruments in Leipzig). It is lacquered and decorated with Islamic motifs, like other pieces of furniture made in Venice at the time.
The spinet almost certainly belonged to Elizabeth I. It bears the royal coat of arms and the falcon holding a sceptre, the private emblem of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth is reported to have played 'excellently well...when she was solitary, to shun melancholy'.
During Elizabeth's reign (1558-1603), some of England's greatest composers flourished, including Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. At the time, the best spinets came from Italy, particularly Venice. Spinets were considered more ladylike than lutes, as the player had less risk of developing rounded shoulders.
The spinet was almost certainly imported from Venice but it cannot be associated with any specific royal palace. Having left the Royal Household soon after the death of Elizabeth, it resurfaced in 1798 at Fisherwick Park, Staffordshire.