Chevalier Charles-Henri Sanson de Longval (1739 – 1806) was the Royal Executioner of France and High Executioner of the Republic from 1778 to 1795.
Born as part of a long line of executioners, Sanson became concerned about the strain on his shoulders and back if he were to carry out the numerous executions demanded after the outbreak of the French Revolution. For this reason, he supported the adoption of the more efficient guillotine as the official method of execution in France.
Around 1792, Sanson began the construction of a guillotine with his friend, Tobias Schmidt. After Sanson had executed two corrupt tax collectors, the latters' henchmen stole the components to the guillotine out of vengeance and in an attempt to lure the executioner into a trap. In response, Sanson contacted the Assassin Arno Dorian and had him recover the components. After Arno had recovered them, Sanson and Schmidt tested the machine, before he helped them fight off an ambush by the henchmen. In April of that year, Sanson used the guillotine for the first time to execute Nicolas Jacques Pelletier, a violent highwayman.
In January 1793, Sanson oversaw the execution of King Louis XVI, and soon became a notorious figure of the Reign of Terror. He asked that the public donated old rags and other cloths to clean up the blood on the guillotine stage. In April 1794, Sanson also oversaw the execution of Georges Danton and a number of other enemies of Maximilien de Robespierre. Just as Danton was about to be guillotined, he made Sanson promise that his head was shown to the crowd. Two months later, the executioner saw to the death of Robespierre himself in the Thermidorian Reaction.
Keeping precise records, Sanson was responsible for the executions of up to 3,400 people.