The assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 (which lead to World War 1) was carried out by the black hand; specifically Gavrilo Princip. Most sources conclude that he failed to kill himself by trying to drink cyanide Including Wikipedia. I was taught in school that he failed at trying to drown himself in a rather idiotic manner, which was trying to drown in a 3ft deep canal. Is this true? I found no evidence to support this.

My question: Did Gavrilo Princip really attempt to drown himself in a 3ft canal?

EDIT: I presume if you are reading this you are aware of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination but if otherwise, here is the Wikipedia page.

  • 1
    Trying to drown yourself in a 3 feet deep canal? That's pretty difficult under the best of circumstances. Let alone chased by the police.
    – Jos
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:16
  • @Jos I hope you realise that it failed.
    – Jake
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:17
  • 2
    I do. I try to visualize a young man standing in water less than a meter deep desperately trying to down himself before the police arrest him. :-) Never heard about that story.
    – Jos
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:20
  • I’d also like to put it out there that my history teacher was obviously uneducated unless there is some evidence.
    – Jake
    Feb 18, 2018 at 0:24
  • I remember hearing that too. In Horrible Histories I think ;)
    – Ne Mo
    Feb 18, 2018 at 9:51

1 Answer 1


According to this online biography of Gavrilo Princip, it was his co-conspirator Nedjelko Cabrinovic who tried to drown himself (in the River Miljacka).

As they drove along the quay, the assassin Cabrinovic armed his bomb against a lamp-post, and threw it at the Heir Apparent. It exploded under the third car and caused minor injuries. Cabrinovic swallowed his poison, which failed to work, and jumped into the river, where he failed to drown as there was very little water. He was arrested and held for questioning.

Latin Bridge The Latin Bridge across the Miljacka river. (By Jrwooley6 (Flickr: The Bridge) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons) It was near here that Cabrinovic jumped into the river (it was only 10 centimetres deep) and also near where the assassination took place.

Princip's poison also failed to work, and he was seized by the crowd while attempting to shoot himself.

  • Any exact depth of the river?
    – Jake
    Feb 18, 2018 at 9:39
  • Wikipedia says 10cms at the time of the assasination. Feb 18, 2018 at 12:27

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