Born on 28 January 1885 in Caucasus. Son of a judge and grandson of a participant of the 1863 January Uprising, whose property was confiscated and he himself exiled to Siberia and then resettled to Caucasus. Completed secondary school in Tver, and studied in St. Petersburg, where he joined the illegal National Youth Organisation, and then the Polish Youth Union "Zet", where he played aleading role. Graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Dorpat, Estoniain 1911.
After military service, started his career as an attorney in Minsk, capital of Byelorussia (now Belarus). In 1917, as former Warrant Officer of the tsarist army, was engaged in the creation of the Polish military formations in Russia. At the 1st General Congressof the Polish Military in Petrograd, he was elected President (the honorary presidency was awarded to Jozef Pilsudski). He was the Chairman of the Supreme Polish Military Committee which, after the Bolsheviks victory, was moved to Minsk. Co-operated with the Regency Council. Atthe end of the First World War he held the rank of Major. In 1921, he was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs, which position he held three times.
He was a voivode (province governor) several times. Became a senator in 1930 and, subsequently, Marshal (Speaker) of the Senate. Having assumed the office of the President on 30 September 1939, he appointed General Wladyslaw Sikorski Prime Minister, and after his death - Stanislaw Mikolajczyk. After the Yalta Conference, the great powers of the Coalition with drew their recognition for the Polish government-in-exile. On 6 June 1947 Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz died, having previously designated August Zaleski to the post of the President.