Why is Vladimir Putin failing to win his war in Ukraine? The answers multiply: hubris, corruption and incompetence on the Russian side; military valor, canny leadership and American munitions on the Ukrainian side.

But the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wave of antique pageantry help illuminate one of the Russian president’s important weaknesses. He has been hobbled in his fight because his regime lacks the mystical quality we call legitimacy.

Ross Douthat, a New York Times Opinion columnist, writes about politics, religion, moral values and higher education.